Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Sew 70s" - Project Runway Recap

Project Runway friends!  Firstly, I must apologize for the lack of recap last week - real life overwhelmed me and I couldn’t find a spare minute to look down my nose at the gaggle of 70s-era atrocities that paraded down that runway.  But it seems I have a second chance, because this week’s challenge was to take a 70s look and update it, making it sophisticated and modern for a chance to be sold on

The designers viewed this as a second chance as well, especially Anya and Kimberly, who had received unusually cold critique for their lackluster menswear designs in the last challenge.  But it was also painfully evident throughout the entire episode that we are really getting into the competition.  Laura Kathleen decreed that all seven designers left can make good clothes - it’s just a matter of who makes good design choices with a sophisticated taste level.  Indeed, everyone seemed to be full of slightly cliché (but no less true) bon mots about the competition: Anya said there’s no room for mistakes, and Josh echoed a similar sentiment: “no excuses.”  Viktor perhaps summed it up best (and most colloquially?) with a sassy, “The game is on, bitches.”  (Did he do a neck roll?  I can’t remember.  In my mind, he did.  A neck roll and a waggling index finger.  Because in my head, Viktor is a cartoon.)

What’s funny about these four early statements is that they each turned out to hold particular ironic relevance to the person who said them.  LK talked about taste level, and come Tim’s critique, was warned that Nina Garcia thought hers was lacking.  (Please read the word “lacking” in Nina’s pointed tone of voice - you know the one.)  Anya said there was no room for mistakes, and then made the biggest mistake of all in losing her money at Mood - a Project Runway first!  Then there was Josh’s declaration about no excuses, which he must have forgotten about when he got on the runway and kind of… made excuses.  Finally, Viktor’s “game is on, bitches” attitude came along with the worry that people would get nasty - when in reality, he was the only one that played the game seriously.  He refused to help Anya, got pissy over Josh’s similarly constructed back pleat, and busted out a seriously sassy shout-out to Driving Miss Daisy

Meanwhile, Bert’s just surprised he’s still there.  And bless you, Bert; I think everyone watching is a little surprised too. 

Bert had a little advantage this challenge, though, simply in that he lived the 70s and was theoretically less likely to construct something cliché.  Whereas Viktor bemoaned that he was “never born in the 70s” and Josh lamented that he “never lived in that time.”  I don’t know what it is with these boys and their “never” statements about the 70s, but both times they made me laugh at them.  “I was never born in the 70s,” “I never lived in that time,” - both sentences are ridiculously hilarious to me because, really, who phrases them like that? 

It was obvious who didn’t have an advantage for this challenge, though, and that would be dear, sweet, mohawked Anya.  Apparently her bra strap was not the best place to keep her money, and the floors of Mood devoured the dropped envelope without a trace.  This was a Project Runway first, and the rules were quickly established that unless her competitors were feeling benevolent with their leftover money, Anya was stuck with muslin only. 

So, as a fellow competitor, do you help Anya out or leave her to her cornflakes-fabricked fate?  It’s a tough question, because, as Viktor noted, it is indeed a game (bitches).  And yet, Anya was giving away her extra fabric last week with hardly any hesitation.  The same question came up when Laura Kathleen questioned Kimberly’s “JC Penney” design choices - the girls had made a pact to tell each other when they felt one of them was going astray, but… do you really want to help out your competition?  The dilemma’s fingerprints were all over this episode: are you friends, or are you competitors?  As Laura Kathleen noted: they can’t all stay until the end.  They can’t all go to Fashion Week.  (Even though they do.  Shhhhh!)

Turns out Anthony Ryan, bless him, gave his extra eleven dollars to Anya so she could buy at least some fabric, and all the designers (except Viktor!) chipped in the scraps they weren’t using.  It felt a little bit like Anya was Tiny Tim in a soup kitchen, but even so, it warmed my heart to see the other designers be so generous.  Competition or not, I appreciate more when contestants help each other out in the pursuit of their art, instead of the prize.  (I’m the unusual reality TV viewer: bring me fuzzy moments of human interaction!  Begone, backstabbing bitchiness!)

It was clear early on that Anya was either going to be eliminated for her blunder, or work some sort of magic with her circumstances and pull out an amazing garment.  As if her measly four months of sewing experience weren’t enough to make her an underdog!  Then Tim Gunn delivered another blessing/curse combo halfway through: the designers were required to make a second one-piece garment, with a second trip to Mood, and a second budget - even if just $50.  Sure, it doubled Anya’s already-backed-up workload, but it also gave her a chance to buy more fabric.  So she safety-pinned (and hot-glued and staple-gunned) that money to her dress and bought as much with the $50 that she could manage.

As for the other contestants, they struggled conceptually with designing for the 70s without specifically looking retro or vintage.  Kimberly rather sweetly took inspiration from her mother, who was a secretary in the 70s, and Josh McKinley rather hilariously took inspiration from 70s glam disco.  Bless you, Josh.  Where’d the Village People idea go?  Actually, both Josh and Anthony Ryan’s designs bordered dangerously into 80s territory, although Bert described AR’s fabric as something he’d “go to the mall in, or bury something in the woods.”  I guess the range of Bert’s wardrobe really can span some light shopping as well as covering up a murder.

In the end, Anya did indeed rock it out, with a damn solid look for just $11, even if the top was “Dentyne gum” pink (quip courtesy of Michael Kors).  Her second design was even better, a flowing maxi-meets-jumpsuit with an understated but gorgeous pattern.  Say what you will about her sewing experience, but homegirl knows her prints and has style for days.  Heidi, Nina, and guest judge Olivia Palermo all wanted Anya’s jumpsuit, and even Michael Kors said he’d get one to match! 

At this point in the competition, it’s difficult to imagine a final 3 without Anya in it, unless of course it’s not too late for her inexperience to catch up with her.  But unless she blunders on a challenge, I think the judges would rather see what Anya would put together for a show, more than most of the other contestants.  Nina praised her for her ability to solve problems and adapt to less-than-desirable design circumstances (like losing all your money in Mood, say) - and Heidi called her style quietly showstopping.  High praise!

The other seeming shoo-in for Fashion Week is Mr. Tiger himself - Viktor, of original back pleat fame.  Viktor shared the top with Anya, with a very sharp-looking jacket and tee-shirt that felt very reminiscent of his workout wear a few challenges back.  I confess, as well-made as Viktor’s looks were, from concept to execution, I didn’t think they were terribly 70s-esque.  I imagine he wanted to do something not too on-the-nose in terms of print or color palette, but I think maybe Viktor erred too conservatively away from 70s and strayed too far from theme.

In another surprise, Bert took the third slot in the top, for a balanced duo of glam transparent pantsuit and a simple two-colored dress.  Turns out Bert’s experience of having ever been born in and/or lived in the 70s helped him out, as well as the knowledge that apparently women love to show their shoulders.  (Thanks, Michael Kors!  I hadn’t really thought about it.)

Kimberly snuck through in the one gap left for complete safety, in what is perhaps Kimbo’s true place in this competition: sneaking through.  She hasn’t gotten a lot of attention despite her impeccable construction, and I’ve been particularly impressed with her ability to reroute a potentially catastrophic design.  Both Anya and Kimberly seem blessed with the know-how to take a bad critique and thoughtfully redirect the misgivings into a well-executed design.  At this point, I’d like to see a full collection from Kimberly as well, although I fear the judges won’t be as wowed by her chic everyday looks.  Would they hold up on runway?  Who knows.  But Kimberly’s got a job making pants somewhere, so I’m not worried.

The bottom saw the fall of Anthony Ryan and Laura Kathleen, the Southern Charm Double-Named Wonder Twins who started so strongly in this competition.  It was looking less and less likely that these two would make it to Fashion Week, which is a shame because I rather like both of them.  Tonight, Anthony Ryan’s 3-piece casual look and kimono-style maxi were derided by the judges, and Nina Garcia in particular was horrified by AR’s take on the weed-smoking days of the 70s.  (Anybody else tickled by Nina’s cutaway reaction shots this week?  They seemed more pointed and hilarious than usual.  Thanks, editors!) 

According to Nina, Anthony Ryan’s look just wasn’t “luxe,” and Michael Kors thought they looked like “hippie sister wives” or “boring cult girls.”  I confess, I cracked up.  I did not crack up at Olivia Palermo’s dumbfounded question: “Why not make it a skort?”  I’m sorry, Olivia Palermo, but I just don’t get how skorts are fashion-forward.  Perhaps it’s the residual effects of my late 90s/early 00s bad fashion teen years kicked in, but skorts to me are like the sporks of the clothing world: cool in theory, but a bit tacky in practice.

Laura Kathleen fell victim to Nina’s contempt of her taste level.  It was so strange to me that Tim warned LK of this outright, that Nina specifically is not taken with Laura’s taste, which Laura, bless her, sometimes thinks is too refined.  But she tried to cater more towards Nina’s style, and still came up short, with a top and skirt that didn’t quite go.  I feel badly for Laura - there's specifically a video on Lifetime's website called "Nina Garcia hates Laura Kathleen!"  What the hell?  It doesn't help matters that every time they cut to LK this episode, she always seemed somewhat despairing.  No, it seems Miss Barbie Burner’s chances at Fashion Week are becoming, well… assy.  Sadface.

The final bottomdweller was none other than Josh McKinley, whose trips to the top and bottom happen almost as extremely and as frequently as his mood swings.  I definitely said, “Oh!” out loud when his look turned the corner, but I’m not sure it was a good thing.  Nina decreed his fabric choices “tragic,” and Michael said they went against the laws of fashion nature.  Did anyone else catch Nina’s powerfully disdainful eyeroll when discussing Josh’s outfit?  Magnificent.

In the end, Anya pulled out the win with her maxi pantsuit, and, along with Bert’s mini dress, is going to be featured on  I must say, I’d definitely buy Anya’s, but I’m not sure Bert’s would look flattering on me, even though I liked the details in the tie and the two-color blocking.  But Bert's is sold out on the website!  Go figure.  

And, poor Anthony Ryan got the axe.  I was sad to see Anthony Ryan’s star fade out when he had so much potential, and it was even sadder to see him talk about being close with the other designers, hair styled in Anya’s signature mohawk style as they hugged goodbye.  Sniff!  I’ll miss you, Anthony Ryan, and I can’t wait until I’m not scared of spoilers so I can see your runway collection.

Lastly, I do want to confess that I had a fashion epiphany this week, and that is in the fairly obvious juxtaposition of the “mini” skirt and the “maxi” dress.  I don’t know why this wasn’t plainly apparent to me in the first place, but all of a sudden the two words were used in conjunction and it was enough for me to finally realize that “mini” and “maxi” are indeed opposite types of skirts in both name and style.  Duh.  Placate me, friends - was this a first-time realization for anyone else?

Anyways, are you all as sad to see Anthony Ryan leave as I am?  Are you like Bert, and surprised he’s still here?  Would you have given Anya your money, or protected yourself?  Who do you think is destined for the Final 3?  And did you shudder as much as I did when Olivia Palermo used the phrase “I would have chose?”

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