Friday, May 6, 2016

Project Runway All Stars Season 5 Finale, or About Damned Time

I had forgotten how exhausting recapping can be, so I'm pretty happy that this season is over and I can rest my tired brain for a while. This week's episode isn't really even interesting enough to recap, since there's no drama and all work, but here goes.

Oh, I do have to mention one very notable thing: none of the three finalists are white. In a field where the vast majority of designers are male and white, it's refreshing to see that everyone is encouraged to flourish on Project Runway. There also seems to be many more models of color on the show than are actually represented on fashion runways the world over. That said, 46% of PR winners and 60% of PRAS winners have been white men.

Ken, Kini, and Dom meet Alyssa at the One World Observatory on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the western hemisphere. There, our charming host tasks the designers with their final chore for the series: to create an 8-piece collection that draws on their experience in New York. They have a budget of $3000, but only four days in which to put the collection together. Unlike non-All Stars Project Runway, they will not be going home to their own studios for this challenge, and there certainly won't be any visits from Tim Gunn.

Before they head off to Mood to shop, the designers select models from the army of 24 very tall and skinny people on hand, three of which are male. Then they sketch their NY-inspired collections as they gaze out onto the city from the windows of the observation deck.

Kini tells us his girl is uptown, but wants to hang out downtown. A "Park Avenue Princess" who likes to wear funky silhouettes. Are there really people like that? I read an article not long ago that indicated that there were some really insular groups of people in Manhattan, particularly among the wealthy. The article specifically pertained to a newly-minted nouveau riche mom who felt that she needed to fit in with the other nannied-up penthouse-dwelling yummy mummies in her Upper Onesideortheother neighborhood. They all wore the same types of clothing, ate at the same restaurants, did the same types of physical activities wearing the same brands of yoga pants. The author wasn't local, so she struggled with the whole Stepford Wives thing that was going on. So I would imagine that it might not be acceptable for a "Park Avenue Princess" to buck the trend and dress like one of the fun people who live downtown. (If I could afford to live in Manhattan, I'd live in the West Village or SoHo.)

Ken is inspired by the Harlem Renaissance from the 1920s. He's playing on suiting, and taking the tuxedo pant to a new level. He also plans to use the tuxedo stripe motif in other pieces, like gowns and dresses.

Dom is inspired by the whole chaos and movement and energy of the city, which she noticed on her very first trip to NY back when she was 16.

At Mood, they have a very generous hour to shop. Dom is going to work with patterns, of course, but she intends on painting them herself. She purchases plain white fabrics, leather, a few small-scale prints, and lots and lots of fabric paints. Kini thinks his confused Uptown/Downtown girl would wear plaid, so he invests in a lot of wildly colored brocade fabrics that are slightly shiny and maybe a bit tacky. He thinks they're tasteful, but they're not really. Ken is still itchy from having to use a print last week, so he's sticking not only to solids, but to plain black and white. And maybe a little screaming yellow for a punch of color.

With only four days to complete 8 looks, each designer has a long and ambitious list of things they want to complete in the first day. Dom immediately sets to painting her fabric. She lays one out on the floor and daubs it with various shades of blues. The other, she suspends and paints with strokes of primary colors in a sort of plaid. Sadly, as the designers are taking a dinner break, a dress form passes out onto the painted leather drying on the floor. Just suddenly collapses right there onto her work. Accidentally. Uh-huh. Dom shrugs it off as a "make it work moment."

The next day, the designers come back to the workroom slightly disappointed that hoards of elves did not sneak in during the night to finish things for them. Zanna comes in for a visit. It seems oddly prescient of her to be wearing plaid, as two of the finalists are using plaid fabrics in their collection. It's also odd that the plaid doesn't quite seem to match up where the bodice and skirt join, despite the obvious expense of Zanna's dress. (In pretty much every shot, and definitely in every still on the Lifetime site, she has her arms positioned over the area in question, as if she knows it doesn't match up.)

She starts off with Dom, asking about her inspiration. Zanna cautions Dom not to create overly "easy" silhouettes, for fear that she'd be sending shapeless blobs down the runway.

Kini is told that his opening and closing looks should be powerful, but the collection as a whole should not be gimmicky.

Ken tells Zanna that he's considering scrapping his bright yellow fabric, but she talks him out of it, suggesting that the color would slap the judges in the face. And by this point in the competition, we'd all like to smack them around a bit.

Zanna leaves. Ken says, "I need help. I hope Jesus comes through the door." Unfortunately for him, Jesus is nowhere to be found. However, Alexander, Asha, and Layana are more than willing to lend helping hands to their friends.

So how are the helping designers chosen? Asha, Emily, and Sam were the last to be eliminated, with Layana and Alexander auf'd before Asha. Were they the most willing to work with the finalists? The least likely to sabotage anyone? Does anyone know?

Alexander, Layana, and Asha are godsends to Dom, Ken, and Kini. They are immediately put to work on both large and small projects and lend their hands through day two and day three. There's no tension, no drama. Nobody messes anything up for anyone else, apart from Layana not planning for enough seam allowance on a pair of Ken's pants that end up not fitting his bootylicious model. But he adds more fabric on the side seams and makes it work.

At the end of day three, the designers retire to the Hudson Hotel for a bit of champagne. They were at the Hudson in the very first episode - were they staying there? And if so, why were they being punished in such a cruel manner? If you've never been to the Hudson, let me illuminate my comments for you. Actually, it would be nice if the Hudson had illumination at all. Mr Minx and I stayed there several years back. I had gotten a deal on a room via's name your own price scheme; you can only pick the star rating and the neighborhood, so we didn't actually choose to stay at this particular hotel. Clearly, the Hudson is designed for young, spry people with good vision. The place is barely lit. Halls are dark, elevators are darker. I recommend packing a miner's helmet or at least a flashlight to improve the lighting experience. The rooms are tiny, and the beds are basically expensive mattresses placed directly on the floor. Honestly, if you are prone to falling out of bed, you won't notice at the Hudson, since you'll only fall about 8 inches. If you have bad knees and need to go to the bathroom more than a few times during the night, this is not the hotel for you. The Hudson is for you, however, if you are a bit of a voyeur. The wall separating the bathroom from the bedroom, at least in our room, was clear glass, so people could watch each other shower. Or poop. Thankfully, there was an additional shower curtain on that wall that could be closed for a bit of privacy.

The outside bar area seems nice though.

On day four, the designers have to get everything finished, models in hair, makeup, cheesy shoes, and cheesier jewelry, and down to the runway.

There are two guest judges for this finale, actress Debra Messing, and Marie Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider. (Fulenwider makes me miss former MC EIC Joanna Coles, whom I felt was simply lovely and a much better mentor, in the Tim Gunn vein, than Zanna).

Dom presents her collection first. Her painted leather is really great, and I like her use of other patterns as well, except for that painted plaid. To me, it's a bit overscale. The judges didn't seem especially fond of it, either, with Georgina saying that she really didn't need to use it at all. I felt it really detracted from the beauty of her painted leather.

Ken's collection is next, and while it's very Ken, it's also a bit boring as far as being a runway show is concerned. It's very commercial and ready-to-wear, which of course would be just fine were it on hangers at the store, but the collection was missing some showy runway glamour. Isaac thought it was the most chic of the three, and perhaps it was. Fulenwider didn't think he had a "wow factor," nor did she appreciate what she called his "Cruella de Vil" collars. Not sure what she meant by that; in the original animated movie, Cruella wore a fur coat pretty much the whole time. And the live action character, played by Glen Close, appeared to have been dressed by a team-up of Kini and Mondo.

Ken's hugely wide-legged pants are my favorite thing, and I was glad he did end up using the yellow. But the fit is problematic in both the yellow dress and the yellow top. I think it's clear that Ken is not going to be the winner of season 5, but I have been surprised before.

Kini's collection is very Kini - very showy, lots of weird ruffly things, insane fabric choice. It's also the most design-y collection to come down the runway. Isaac thought the collection was refreshing. Fulenwider thought there was an 80s story going on, and I'm not sure she meant it as a compliment. I can sort of see it though, what with all the bright colors and the unrelenting plaid, not to mention big shoulders. But I don't think that was at all Kini's intention. Gotta remember that these designers might have been born in the 80s, but it's not like they experienced the design of the period in the same way as those of us who are old enough to have been buying our own clothes in those days.

Meanwhile, Zanna is backstage with the designers, heaping praise on every look as it comes down the runway. She is a bit overly-effusive, which makes it seem fake. (While Tim Gunn has also been a bit over-enthusiastic about runway shows, he somehow never seems like a big phony.)

The designers are sent to the green room to wait while the judges deliberate. They seem to be torn between Kini and Dom, and I'm thinking they might go for Kini. But they are really feeling Dom's interpretation of New York. You know, the whole theme of the challenge. And that's where I think Ken and Kini get a little tripped up. Remember back to when the designers were sketching at One World Trade? Ken was inspired by the 20s Harlem Revival and was going to add tuxedo stripes on everything. Kini was designing for a confused Updown/Downtown girl. And both changed their stories to something far more dull, each claiming they were inspired by the geometric aspects of Manhattan. For Ken it was the architecture, and for Kini the grid in which most of the streets are laid out. Dom kept to her original inspiration, which was more about the feeling of the city, the chaos and excitement, than to any one physical thing.

Back out before the judges, Ken is told that he's the second runner-up, which of course is disappointing for him. He really grew in the time between his season and this one though. Not only is he a better designer, but apart from that one "I'm taking my ass home" fit he had a couple weeks back, he's been the picture of decorum and stress management. Then Dom is announced as the winner, much to her own surprise.

I've been #TeamDom from the beginning. Dom is so talented, and seems so sweet. She's the kind of person I wanted to be when I was in art school - a cool kid, but not contrived in any way. Totally "normal" in her artsy-ness. I would have loved to have friends like her. Instead, my cool normalcy made me a real nerd magnet, so I ended up hanging with girls who had vampire fetishes. I am so not into vampires. Anyway, enough about me (but hey, it's my blog).

Congratulations Dom Streater! May you have a long and fruitful design career. And don't forget about us plus-sized gals who would love to wear something you've designed (apart from a cell phone case). And Mazel Tov on the recent wedding and upcoming baby!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Met Gala 2016

The theme for this year's Met Gala was Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, and while some Gala attendees took that to mean they should dress like robots, the Met's signature exhibition explores "how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear."

Robots, not so much.

By now, you've probably seen the amazing gown Zac Posen made for his friend Claire Danes. Using custom fiber optic woven organza, the dress looked baby blue in the light, but lit up in the dark.

From Zac Posen's Instagram account,
But you're not here to read compliments on pretty things, are you? You want to see the crazy and wackadoodle stuff that went down the runway. Believe me, folks, there was plenty of that!

The Olsen Twins don't give a crap about technology or fashion, so they once again raided their grandmother's closet for something to wear. They are going to be 30 this year, so they need to dress more maturely.

Model Bella Hadid was sadly attacked by a herd of rabid standard poodles on the way to the Gala and couldn't make it. (Givenchy)

Princess Grace's grandaughter, Charlotte Casiraghi in Gucci. It's like she's modeling all the colors of bedruffles available in the Brylane Home catalog.

Dakota Johnson, also in Gucci, is ready to get started on the upcoming Fifty Shades of Lace. Seriously, she looks like the marquee for a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Moschino designer Jeremy Scott seemed very proud of his custom creation for Demi Lovato, posting several pics of it on Instagram. I don't quite understand it. I am reminded of old Versace perfume ads, gilded picture frames, and baked potatoes, all at the same time.

This is Grimes. Grimes is edgy. Grimes gets to wear the ugliest dress in the Louis Vuitton collection that all the other cool young things were wearing to the Met Gala.

Not sure I've ever seen Chanel look sloppy, but somehow it does on Jemima Kirke. It doesn't look like it fits her properly. And her makeup would have worked better had she worn another color. Of course, maybe it's better close up. Or from very far away.

 Katy Perry in Prada. 'nuff said.

Did La La Anthony (basketball player Carmelo's wife) look in the mirror before she left the house? Did she realize that her right boob appeared to be pointing up? My chest hurts just looking at her.

Madonna has never heard the old Coco Chanel adage about removing one piece of jewelry before leaving the house. I've never been impressed by her exhibitionism, and her Givenchy costume makes me wish she felt she had something more to offer the world than her tits and ass.

Michelle Monaghan is wearing Rosie Assoulin. Is this leather? Is that a crepe paper streamer on the top? It looks sweaty.

SJP's costume, by Monse, was apparently inspired by Hamilton, the musical. Huh. Love the shoes. The rest, not so much. Clearly she's had some work done (lips look plumper, she looks vaguely like Kate Hudson). So why does she look so old? She's only 8 months older than I am.

Tavi Gevinson is a blogger. She managed to come up with the 30K to buy a ticket to the Met Gala, but then she couldn't afford to buy anything appropriate to wear. (Coach 1941)

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Project Runway All Stars Season 5 Episode 12, or Everybody Hugs Sam

I must really love you guys. I missed Manny Machado's grand slam last night because I was watching PRAS instead of the Orioles/White Sox game. My allergies are killing me right now, so forgive me if I am less than coherent this week. But, as they say, the show must go on!

There are four designers left, which means only one more week of missed baseball! Those final four--Kini, Dom, Sam, and Ken--meet Alyssa at the runway where she unnecessarily involves two other people in order to introduce a relatively straightforward and very familiar challenge. This week's guest judge and regular Project Runway critic, Meana Nina Garcia, is trotted out (rocking a fabolos jumpsuit pretty hard, I might say), as is some poor bland girl named Barbara Meyer (who isn't wearing anything particularly memorable, in fact she's got no business standing anywhere near a runway in that Drab Debbie outfit) in order to convince the designers that cellphones are a fashion accessory.

In the past, HP has been involved in the design-your-own-fabric challenge, which is what this penultimate contest is all about. The All-Stars twist, to fancy up an ordinary Project Runway Mothership challenge, is that the designers have to use more than one print! Omigod! How creative! How novel! How isn't this what Dom does every week? For a perk, such as it is, the winning designer will have his or her pattern printed on an Otterbox, which is where Blandina Meyer comes in. She's the PR director for Otter Products, makers of Otterbox, a protective case for cell phones. The PR director! That's the best they can do? Not the owner, or another designer? The least they could have done is tarted her up in some bizarre sparkly dress with built-in digital technology, like Alyssa's dress by Cutecircuit. (Personally, I think it's gimmicky to have lettering flash across one's chest like a human Times Square marquee, but I'm no Katy Perry.)

After watching her for two seasons, we know this whole pattern mixing thing is right up Dom's alley. She is amazing with prints, and is the Print Goddess, as Ken calls her later in the episode. Ken, on the other hand, is terrified of prints. They haunt his darkest nightmares, so he doesn't use them. He tells us that the only prints he wants to work with is the one that wants to party like it's 1999. Which is scarily timely, being that he passed on to that big Purple Rain cloud in the sky a week ago.

So the designers head to the workroom to play with their own prints, then take $150 to Mood to sketch and buy more prints. Once there, Sam announces that not only does he want to make a jumpsuit, he also wants to work with the same white neoprene mesh that he's used in the past 467 challenges. And lest you think he's joking - he's not.

Back in the workroom, Sam and Ken have a little chat. They both mention something that happened "last night," and if we go by the usual PR convention of speaking about challenges being a week apart, we might wonder if something else happened between Sam and Ken. But no, it's the whole, "you're a snake," "no I'm not" green room encounter from the end of the last episode in which Ken expresses his displeasure in Sam's seemingly lackadaisical method of design and fabrication.

Ken, who shows us every week how he's grown as a person, tells Sam he didn't mean to hurt his feelings, but meant his words more as a push. Sam says he definitely feels pushed off a ledge and the two hug it out.

The designers haven't received their printed fabrics yet and expect Alyssa to come in with the Head Sanitation Engineer from We Print Ur Fabrix, Inc., any minute now. Instead, they get the four former winners of PRAS, Mondo, Anthony Ryan, Seth Aaron, and Dmitry. They bring not only the fabric, but also words of advice for the Final Four.

Mondo, who was Sam's mentor on Under the Gunn, tells him that he believes he can win it all, provided his craftsmanship improves. Sam is happy for the advice, and he and Mondo embrace.

The most important advice given to the group comes from Seth Aaron, who admonishes them all not to bore Nina.

Let's pause to take a look at the designers' fabrics now. Veddy interesting. Would love to know how long they had to create them.




...and Kini's. What do you think of any or all of them?

Not long after the previous winners finish wasting the designer's precious little time, Zanna comes in, right after a sound bite of Ken saying, "can Zanna come tomorrow?"

She starts her critique at Kini's station. He tells her about dramatic shoulders, and she warns him to make it interesting in a good way, not gimmicky.

Sam then dismays her with his concept. He says he thinks the mesh is "different and weird and cool," but Zanna doesn't think it's all that different since he's used it for several challenges in the past (and Kini has used it, too).

She runs screaming over to Ken, where it's not all that much better. His Mood print is better than the one he created, and she's not seeing them working together.

Finally, Dom's painted pleather gives Zanna pause. Not really, but she has to say something bad, and she knows Dom's got this challenge in the bag.

Models come in for a fitting, but the designers don't really have all that much done. By the end of the day, Ken is worried about time management, as he's just got sleeves and nothing else. Dom has a whole jacket to create, and Sam hasn't even started on his jumpsuit.

The next day, they manage to get all the 10,000 things completed and send their models for hair and makeup. The makeup artist, Mr Crazy Moustache, suddenly gets all creepy on Dom. After they decide to put a nude lip on her model, he declares that Dom would herself look pretty nude. She seems slightly taken aback. He must be one of those gay guys with a boobie fetish.

They toss cheap accessories and shoes on their models and send them down to the runway where Meana awaits.

They start with Kini. They think his girl looks "10-feet tall," partly because she is that tall, but also that skirt gives the illusion of height. Isaac prefers the print Kini bought to the one he made. Nina said she recognized the work as being Kini's immediately, and Alyssa thinks his print deserves to be on a phone case. Not sure that was a compliment?

Sam is next. Georgina doesn't like the prints and thinks the jumpsuit is just bad. Nina likes the coat, but doesn't like the slouchiness of the jumpsuit (which I do like).

Isaac thinks the Neoprene Net Council must be paying Sam to use their product so much.

Nina thinks Dom's is both fabulous and fresh, which of course it is. And the contrast between the two pieces is "phenomenal." (One of Nina's favorite words; a shame she doesn't know what it really means.) The sideways high-low length is a bit weird though. Alyssa thinks the coat is a piece of art, and while Isaac likes both the coat and the dress, he think he prefers them more apart than together.

Finally, Ken's prints don't gel together. Georgina thinks there's a lack of polish. With the high waist on the skirt, the neckline should be lower, and the hem should be shorter. Ken's print is taking a back seat to the Mood print, rather than vice versa. Isaac said if that print were on his iPhone case, he'd cry every time he called his mother, which is no different from what already happens.

Back in the green room, Dom remarks that seeing Nina was a bit like encountering the ghost of Christmas past. Sam says to him it was like meeting Santa Claus, which is pretty cute.

The judges are deliberating. Dom and Kini are on top, Sam and Ken are on the bottom. They come to a winning decision, but can't seem to decide who should go this week. They bring the designers out and announce Dom as the winner (of course). However, "for the first time this season" they can't decide who to send home. Which of course is absolute bullshit, because the same thing happened twice already this season. In episode 1, they couldn't decide whether Mitchell or Danielfranco should go home, and in episode 5, whether Valerie or Sam should be escorted to the door. In both cases, both designers were allowed to stay. This time, however, either Ken or Sam would have to leave. Or, they could fuck with us and allow both to stay.

Fuck with us they did, not by allowing both to stay, but by tacking another half hour onto the episode, half of which was commercials. They make the potential losers battle each other right there on the runway, not with maces and swords (which would be fun) but with sewing machines.

How was it that the prop department happened to have large cardboard boxes with question marks printed on them? Were these left over from a Lifetime movie of the week about the secret forbidden romance between Batman and the Riddler? Or was this whole thing planned? In any case, the boxes each contained two looks--one winning and one losing--from the season. Sam and Ken have to use components from each look to create a third look. Let me remind you that we've seen this before not all that long ago: Korinna and Char faced a sudden death challenge in episode 11 of season 13.

Ken gets his own winning and Mitchell's losing look from the baroque challenge. Sam gets Asha's winning and Alexander's losing looks from the fairytale challenge. They slice and dice and the judges return. Sam's made a wonky jacket from the bodices of both dresses over a dress made from Alexander's lining. Ken crops his dress, makes a collar for it, and only uses a bit of fabric from Mitchell's as trim. The judges hem and haw and finally send Sam home.

You read that right. Sam is out. Despite the entire season seeming rigged to allow Sam to win, he gets eliminated. And you know what? I feel bad for him. I want to see an entire 8-look collection from him. I want to see him do something that doesn't involve neoprene mesh and jumpsuits.

Big hugs from Alyssa before Sam goes to clean up his workspace.

Next week: no jumpsuits, no neoprene mesh. Fingers crossed!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant

Venerable plus-size clothing specialist, Lane Bryant, is seriously upping its cred with the introduction of a new collection by Project Runway season 4 winner, Christian Siriano. Online only today, in stores starting tomorrow, April 28th.

Siriano has been a celeb red carpet favorite pretty much since his PR win. Now we non-famous larger ladies can clad ourselves in some of his chic designs.

I'm loving the hot pink and black, and touches of animal print. Some of my favorites from the collection:

Portrait neck mesh dress $148.00

Perforated moto jacket $168.00

Animal print dress $128.00

Cropped stripe tee $48.00 and organza plaid circle skirt $108.00

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Project Runway All Stars Season 5 Episode 11, or, Avant Garde a Clue

This week, PRAS gets all artsy-fartsy (or, as Zanna and Mrs Weinstein might pronounce it, aahtsy-faahtsy) on us. The five remaining designers meet Alyssa at Agora Gallery in Chelsea, where the current show is an exhibition of some of "New York's cutting edge artists."

Alyssa, who appears to be dressed as an android, at least from what little we can see of her outfit (and, oddly, it has potential), tells the designers that this is the Avant Garde challenge, and they are to produce wearable works of art, innovative out-of-the-box fashion, dramatic looks, and assorted other adjectival phrases. She then reveals the name of the guest judge this week--Boy George--which is probably some contractual obligation on the show's part. Because - why does it matter? They're not designing for him. He just wants to get his name out early and often, I suppose.

The designers toast with champagne and schmooze the artists for inspiration. Sam is absolutely fixated on Carl Hopgood's piece, "Digital Taxidermy," a digital video of an owl under a glass dome. Hopgood says the concept of the piece is taking a moment and making it last forever, which really resonates with Sam. Sam is excited about gay marriage being legal across the US and wants to celebrate that in his garment. Hopefully, legal marriage for all isn't just a "moment in time," and will be an enduring thing. Unfortunately, with the current divisive political climate, nothing in this country seems to be guaranteed anymore.

Both Emily and Ken are inspired by the works of Lexi Bella, an artist who paints "strong women." Be careful with googling her; there is also a Lexi Belle, who does porn, and she has far, far more links. Of course, if you're into that stuff, google away. I'm not so impressed by Bella; her work looks a lot like the partial faces and portraits of imaginary women I doodled on my book covers in high school, only bigger and in color. However, both designers feel they design for "strong women" (does anyone design for weak women?) and her words and images resonate with them.

I'm far more into what Dom is into - the work of Juan Carlos Pinto, who makes mosaics out of cut up Metro Cards (and other stuff). I love mosaics; I suppose it's not unlike the beadwork I've done in the past, attaching small pieces together to form a cohesive whole, only in 2D. Dom recognizes that the way she plays with fabrics is not dissimilar to the effect of Pinto's cutting and pasting.

Kini gets into the work of Bradley Theodore, whose boldly colored works make me think of both Matisse and classic Mexican Day of the Dead iconography. Theodore is primarily a street artist, but his work translates well to the smaller scale of canvas.

The designers sketch for a while at the gallery. Have you noticed that what they are actually sketching doesn't always (often not at all) resemble the sketches that are blown up for our viewing pleasure? Clearly they make the designers re-draw their creations after they are finished, and those "sketches" are the ones shown to us with the designer's voice-over. Personally, I'd rather see the originals, as it gives us a glimpse into the design process and the way it evolves while making a piece. The original design often changes quite a bit, as seen in Ken's original and post-sewing drawings.

The budget for this challenge is $400. At Mood, we find Kini once again buying brocade. WTcompleteF? And Sam, who has just as much money to spend as everyone else, instead buys some floaty fabric and a ton of fabric paints.

This week, in addition to Kini's now-expected bitching about Sam, Ken gets to have his say as well. He thinks Sam is a huge threat (notice he didn't say "competition,") not because of his talent, but because he holds the judges in some strange thrall. That's called "producer manipulation," Ken. Kini seems to think that an avant garde look requires a lot of technical skills, which he believes Sam is lacking. But that's not necessarily true. To be avant garde simply means to be innovative, or in the forefront. To do something that nobody else has done before. The early 20th century art movement called Dada or Dadaism is a good example. While today, in the age of the Piss Christ, a urinal posing as art is no big thing, back then, it was shocking and unexpected. It wasn't art, it was anti-art. Yet somehow that made it art. So really, anything goes when it comes to avant garde fashion, as long as it still remains fashion, that is, wearable. However, Sam seems to think that it's about "an idea, a feeling," and that the type of avant garde that is "overdone and ridiculous" is not who he is as a designer.

What we have here is a clear non-understanding of the concept of avant garde. Admittedly, it is somewhat difficult. It is very very hard to be an innovator.

Sewing, sewing, bitching, then Day One comes to an end. Luckily, the designers have two days for this challenge, and not long after they get to the workroom on Day Two, Zanna comes in for...what would you call the opposite of a pep talk? A demoralization meeting? She starts with Emily, and tells her that her dress might be too literal a translation of the painting, what with the colors and the mimicking of the shapes on the upper left side. It's clearly an Emily dress, and while a cool concept, it's not particularly avant garde. Zanna tells Dom to "bring it." Kini's look isn't particularly modern or avant garde. (I blame the brocade.) She tells Ken not to make his dress too "Blade Runner." But if he could somehow make his dress look like a (much) younger Harrison Ford, we'd all be happy.

Ken is happy that this is a two-day challenge, as he's decided to scrap his original idea and make some major changes. His first (real) sketch showed a cage-like structure around the neck and shoulders. He chucks this out the window and works on a "neckpiece, collar moment" that will cover his model's face. And look like a giant leather taco.

When Zanna questions Sam about his choice of a rainbow, he tells her about wanting to capture the whole gay marriage is legal moment. She tells him that it's not about capturing a moment in his life, but about being inspired by the artist. But Sam is clearly inspired by the artist and the artist's concept, which is about capturing a moment. Had he decided to make an owl costume for his model, she would have had issues with that as well. The real issue here is that his design is probably not avant garde. Oh, and rainbows are a cliche.

Like Ken, Sam is happy that he has extra time for this challenge, because he is, once again, for the umpty-eleventh time in this competition, going to scrap his original design and make a jumpsuit start over. He bought some filmy purple fabric in addition to the stuff he painted, and he drapes that over the rainbow. As Sam's draping and sewing, draping and sewing, Ken gets another bee in his bonnet about Sam's lack of construction technique. He actually finds it disrespectful. There's lots of bleeping as he curses up a storm.

Eventually time is up, bitching is momentarily halted, and the designers send their models to hair and makeup. Obvious rummaging through the K-Mart Shoe and Jewelry Sale Rack also happens. Time for the runway!

Mini Cher Alyssa introduces the regular judges--Mrs Weinstein and the Iconic Isaac...

...and Boy George. I love me some Boy George. We're of the same generation, and I spent what I consider the best musical years of my life listening to Culture Club (among other artists) being fascinated by George O'Dowd's androgynous appearance. When I was in high school, I constructed a life-sized fabric mannequin of the Boy, which sat around in my bedroom for about a decade before I disassembled him and reclaimed my favorite t-shirt, which he had been wearing (it was pink, had a drawing of Big Ben, and "London" in a fancy gothic typeface). His latest album, This Is What I Do, is pretty terrific, IMHO.

The runway show goes so quickly with only five competitors left.

It's hard to tell from the commentary immediately following the runway which looks are on top and which suck. Dom is one who is on top with her mosaic dress and wacky makeup. I wonder if Zanna mentioned to her that her look was also a pretty literal translation of the original work of art, in both the colors and the effect of the pattern? The colors and patterns also remind me a bit of Roy Lichtenstein, an artist famous for his comic book-style pop art images. This look is 100% not avant garde and 100% Dom. Perhaps had Sam made this dress, which 100% would not have happened, it would seem more avant garde, because it would be 100% unexpected from him.

Also on the top and 100% representative of its author is Kini's dress. Personally, I hate it. There's so much damn technique going on. The body suit with full head mask, which echoes the black shapes of the figures in inspiration artist Bradley Theodore's works, isn't particularly new, and it's weird and lumpy. The "bow" looks heavy. And despite the skirt being hot pink instead of screaming yellow, I can't help but think of Big Bird. Isaac thinks it's too pretty, and Georgina thinks it's something that might have been worn on "Dinnastee" (Dynasty) in the 80s.

Ken's giant black taco is the closest to avant garde we get on this runway. His model's head appears to be floating, which is a neat effect. The rest of the look falls into the "nice dress with ruffled sleeves" category. Boy George thinks it's "pure Grace Jones," which I can see. Isaac thinks it's divine, but it's slightly too short and needs a bit more drama at the bottom, like a train. 

Poor Emily is on the bottom for creating something that is simply too wearable. The OCD knitter in me wants to unknit her cables and reknit them correctly. One judge opines that it would have been better if the shoulders were huge. Emily mentioned earlier in the show that that wouldn't be her thing, but we don't know if that confessional had been filmed before or after the runway show. The judges also think it might have been better in all black, but that still wouldn't have made it avant garde. However, it's a cool dress, and styled well.

Then we get to Sam, who has to explain his whole "gay marriage moment in time" thing. The judges love the story; Boy George wishes he had heard it before he saw the piece. Georgina thinks the design is unresolved, and Alyssa thinks it looks like a kite caught in a tree. Isaac LOVES it. It's his favorite look of the day, despite the fact the model is not wearing flats. He is obviously drinking the producer's Sam-flavored kool-aid by the gallon. Either that, or he wants to get into Sam's pants. Eww*. (Could be difficult, as Sam, King of the Jumpsuits, is wearing a jumpsuit.)

I don't really know what to say about it. Ken and Kini have thrown enough shade at Sam; I don't need to pile on. Suffice it to say that I think he could have done better, even keeping the whole rainbow flag motif. It's more sloppy than avant garde.

While the judges deliberate, we have even more drama between Ken and Sam in the green room. Ken calls him a snake and a liar. And while it's true that Sam has not produced many memorable garments this season, it's not his fault that he wasn't eliminated weeks ago despite being on the bottom three times prior to this one. Blame the producers, who have sacrificed quality for drama this season. It's one thing when producer interference is subtle (and it's bound to happen every season), but this season it's painfully obvious.

Back out on the runway, Ken is named the winner. Congrats to him for understanding the concept! And while Georgina thinks that Sam's entry in the competition looks like a panic and a mistake, with neither Alyssa nor George being particularly into it, he is safe. Which means Emily is out. Which is completely ridiculous. Perhaps if she had stuck to her original concept of the dress appearing to be unraveling, and really exaggerated that with strands draping the floor and coming detached (maybe with wire inserted into the tubes and bent into flowy shapes), giving it a bigger collar, and yes, bigger shoulders, she wouldn't have been on the bottom. Certainly not eliminated. But someone had to go, and apparently it was not/is never going to be Sam.

Next week: the return of past PRAS winners and Nina Garcia! And we also get a glimpse of Alyssa saying something about "for the first time this season, the judges can't make a decision," which: 1) is a lie, they couldn't decide whom to auf in two episodes so far; 2) might mean that all four remaining designers go to the finale. Ugh.

* Isaac looks like he might smell like mothballs. Or whatever cheap perfume Shawnie Sue is wearing on his QVC segments. Plus, he's more than twice Sam's age at 54. When I was 23, 30 was ancient.

Posted by theminx on
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