Sunday, August 20, 2017

Project Runway Season 16, Episode 1

It's been a long time since I've recapped Project Runway: The Mothership--November 2009. That's eight years and ten seasons ago! I did recap All-Stars last year, and that was fun. I figured I'd try again and if I hated it, or even worse, if you hated it, I'd give up for good. But let's get on with the show, shall we?

This season there are sixteen competitors, only five of whom are white. That's a huge shift from previous seasons. Another big change this season is the models, who range from size 2 to size 22. Models will be randomly assigned throughout the season so everyone will get a chance to work with a bigger girl and not exclusively with someone tall, leggy, and hip-less. Yaaaas! Big is beautiful! It's about time that the fashion world recognizes that the average American female is a size 16, with curves, or if more like me, shaped somewhat like a tree trunk. In either case, we are not wire hangers and typical size 0-2 models do not represent us.

The new contestants meet up in what looks to be a large garage-like facility. There's a bartender shaking up creamy coffee-looking drinks that everyone is holding but few seem to be drinking. Possibly because those drinks contain Grey Goose vodka and it's only 8am. Still, that's good vodka and I probably wouldn't turn one down even that early in the morning.

We meet Kenya, a plus-sized woman herself with bold lipstick and a shaved head. She says she is coming to "murder you a good way." I instantly like her. Two of the white girls this season are identical twins Shawn and Claire Buitendorp. Shawn's the "edgy" twin, as evidenced by her shaven head. She says the way to tell them apart is "Shawn shaved, Claire hair." They both have nose rings and matching hot pink lipstick and occasionally speak in unison. Five minutes into the show I am already completely annoyed by them.

The rest of the cast has unfamiliar-sounding names that will take me a week or nine to remember: Kentaro; Batani-Khalfani; Kudzanai; Amy. Brandon seems immediately lost and full of self-doubts. He's 24, and has only designed womenswear once. Once. He won't last long in these here parts. Aaron has long bleached hair with pink roots and looks like a cross between Dr Drew and John Lennon, so I'm probably going to refer to him as Pink Hair John Lennon when I can't remember his name is A-A-Ron. Or maybe even if I do remember. I liked Samantha, Margarita, Ayana, and Deyonté immediately--they were full of enthusiasm but not full of themselves. Sentell and Michael didn't make much of an impression of me at all. And then there is ChaCha from Taiwan, who is 24 going on 7. His name is really Vincent, but everyone calls him ChaCha, which means "annoying little bird." Right on the money. I determined he would be the first to be aufed simply by reading his bio on the Lifetime web site. When asked what his weakness was as a designer, he replied,"I’m bad at fitting!" Welp, kiddo, Nina and Zac don't play that. And after so many seasons, it's getting more and more rare to find a cast member who doesn't have good sewing skills. Thankfully.

There's a bit of "getting to know you," during which Shaved Twin acts like she's the fucking hostess of the party, greeting every new person who walks through the door with her hand outstretched, "Hi! Who are you?" Once everybody is in the room, garage doors open at one end of the space to let in a huge tour bus. Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn emerge and share awkward double-cheek kisses. Tim appears to be uncomfortable during the exchange, which seems odd after so many years of doing the show together.

They introduce the first challenge, which is to design a red carpet look that showcases "who you are as a designer." The designers seem pleased that the first challenge isn't particularly challenging, but then Heidi says, cryptically, "expect the unexpected." On cue, models emerge from the bus. Some contestants feign pleasure at the variation in size, but others just plain freak out. Like poor menswear designer Brandon, who is assigned the biggest girl of the bunch. I briefly reconsider my prediction that ChaCha will be the first out, but only briefly.

The models get a feature this season called "Model Mirror" when they gaze upon their reflection in a full-length mirror and talk about how they are feeling at the time. What we see looks like a standard to-the-camera confessional, but with an added overhead angle showing the models and the mirror. I don't understand the point, but whatever.

The designers get a budget of $300 for this one-day challenge and are quickly whisked to Mood to purchase fabric, after which time they are introduced to their work space.

There are so many designers in the beginning the show tends to concentrate on the ones who are most likely to be in the top or bottom. Brandon is getting a loser edit because he is so concerned about designing for a plus sized woman. ChaCha is also getting a loser edit, because, well, he deserves it. He calls his model fat, then switches to "oversized." Nice. But his model is not what I would consider "plus sized." While sketching, ChaCha said he would purposely emphasize her "big butt" with a snug dress, but what he's actually fabricating looks more like a big bag of cotton candy.

They did let the camera linger briefly on Sentell, as his story is somewhat interesting. After working as a dancer for 12 years, he was tired of the struggle. So he went to a medium who insisted he should be a designer. That's not to say he has any talent, but I guess we'll see as the season progresses.

The photos we see of Batani's pre-Runway portfolio show a strong African influence and she herself is wearing a fun patterned dress with matching head wrap and huge earrings. She says she loves to use bold colors and wanted something colorful for her model, but then settled on a drab gray stretch material, claiming that it would be "best on her body shape," because she wants to "tuck her in." Right there that sounds like she sees having a plus-sized model as being a problem.

Tim comes in for his consultation with the designers and except for ChaCha's bag of cotton candy, doesn't seem to have any overly serious issues with what they're creating.

The models come in for their fittings and everything goes fairly well there, too. Brandon still seems a bit lost, and his model hopes that he can deliver something that's figure flattering. What I'm seeing mid-creation looks completely unflattering. The skirt is too voluminous, and the blouse is boxy, with some weird tie detail on the left sleeve. It's still in the muslin state at this point though, so perhaps once it's created in the actual fabric he plans to use it will be good. But the fabric turns out to be a brown and peach camo. Errr...I have issues with camo. I think it belongs in the military or in the forest on a person hunting deer, otherwise, it's ugly. But hey, that's my opinion. I have a lot of them, and it's fine if you don't agree.

The day ends and the designers are tired, but they still have some commuting to do. Their lodgings for this season are in the Box Hotel. While that sounds like a euphemism for a cardboard appliance casing somewhere on Broadway, it's actually a real Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I suppose it's not that far, but still at least a 20 minute ride. I can imagine the designers will be getting pretty punchy during their evening commute by mid-season. Hopefully we get to watch them snipe at each other in a moving vehicle.

The next day they have two hours to finish their red carpet looks, plus send their models to the Avon Beauty Lab and get their hair did at what sounded like "our" beauty salon. I couldn't tell if there was a sponsor for hair at all this year. And accessories....oy. They are furnished by JCPenney.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Walmart accessory wall come Season 18...
...and accommodations in Jersey City.

Tim seems more concerned than usual about over-accessorizing. I don't blame him.

Designers and models are soon herded to whatever faraway venue they use for the runway show these days, perhaps on Staten Island. Heidi, Nina, Zac, and guest judge Olivia Munn are awaiting the potential shitshow, but I think by the end they're pretty pleased overall. It's not a bad group of designers this year...apart from one or two.

Since there are so many designers at this point, I'm just going to talk about the top and bottom three looks.

Batani talked a good piece about doing colorful African-inspired garments, but then she put out this drab, stretchy, mess. When she was talking about using the lace applique as a motif, I thought it would be really pretty, but she just tacked it on to basically hide her model's big tummy, and then added a drape on top of that. Her gal had a great curvy shape and deserved better than that.

I thought for sure poor Brandon was on the bottom, but the judges loved his look. Maybe they felt sorry for him? But they called it strong, sassy, and fabulous, so maybe they actually liked it. I don't think the colors were very red carpet-like, but it really wasn't a bad outfit if you're into athleisure, despite the camo.

Predictably, ChaCha's clown costume was on the bottom. Who knows what he was thinking? The outfit was made with a fabric that the judges seemed to think was beautiful close up, but the overall look with the ridiculous ruffles looked like a "dance recital costume," a "scrunchie," and a "clown/unicorn" mashup.

Deyonté's floral two-piece gown was magnificent. Though Tim usually has issues with large floral prints, he loved it, and the judges loved it too. the draping was perfect, and the colors really went well with his model's coloring. So lovely.

Kenya's look was "white hot," definitely white but not at all wedding gown-ish, which is a usual complaint heard when a designer chooses to use all white. It was sexy, elegant, clean, and well-made, although she got dinged for using a fabric that perhaps didn't offer enough support to a bustier. Still, gorgeous.

Bald Twin's look had promise until you got to the tacky silver leather shorts. I think if they had been tight hot pants, it could have worked, but the floppy boxer short look was just tacky. It was too "club kid," too "hooker-y" for the judges.

I think Deyonté's look just edges out Kenya's for the top spot; I would have been happy with either. Predictably the annoying little bird was sent home. Told ya so.

What did you think? Did my recap suck? Hopefully not. Leave me a comment or two so I know if I should continue on or not.

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