How many challenges can we have in a single episode of Project Runway? If they cram more parameters and requirements in, does it make the results better, or does it just make a fantastical meltdown more likely? Will the judges care, as long as the clothes are fierce? Apparently the show’s producers set out to answer those very questions on Thursday’s episode, and the results were as mixed as the challenge was.
Not only did our designers have to work with partners, but they had to create two cohesive looks, base them on different neighborhoods in New York, and also endure a visit from
Mister Clean professional shill L’Oreal makeup artist Collier Strong. Some of the designers did ok, others did much worse, and I’m betting that I wasn’t the only viewer that ended the episode feeling underwhelmed.
Let’s start with the positives: as every week goes by, it gets harder and harder to guess who might go home in any given week, and that’s when the show really gets interesting. That your favorite designer might go home for a relatively minor misstep makes the show all the more engaging, and it certainly makes me pay closer attention during judging.
It also means that things like designer pairings matter a lot more than they do in the beginning of the season. The team leaders were picking randomly from Tim Gunn’s Magic Bag o’ Choosing, and then they picked their partners and, afterward, the neighborhood in New York City that would inspire their outfits. Anthony and Maya chose Chinatown, Emilio and Seth Aaron went with Harlem, Amy and Jonathan visited the Upper East Side, and Jay, who was stuck with Mila, designed based on the East Village.
No one got too literal with their inspiration, which has been a nice surprise with this set of designers – if the Anthony and Maya had made a red dress or outfit of any kind, my head was going to explode. In fact, some of the outfits might have been aided by slightly more obvious references, although I’m afraid that even putting that sentiment into words dooms us to a lifetime of Nehru-collared, shiny, bamboo-patterned Chinatown outfits.
Before we talk about those who could have done things differently, let’s address those who were moderately successful. Our top groups were Emilio and Seth Aaron and Anthony and Maya, and really, the competition between their sets of outfits wasn’t even close. Anthony and Maya didn’t get along particularly well but managed to make a totally serviceable cocktail dress with an asymmetrical embellishment inspired by crepe paper streamers, and a somewhat less serviceable jacket and miniskirt that had totally non sequitur red accents that were terrible. I wouldn’t have worn either outfit, but they weren’t bad, per se. Also, they included just the right number of cultural reference points without turning their outfits into costumes.
They really weren’t any match, however, for Emilio and Seth Aaron’s Harlem-inspired outfits. Emilio did the night look, which was a slightly boring evening gown that was saved by its zippered slit and peeking yellow lining, and Seth Aaron was in charge of a denim getup for day. I normally don’t support an all-denim look, but Seth Aaron has done such interesting structural things with jackets this season that I’ll forgive the faux pas. Also, the look appeared to be genuinely Harlem-inspired, despite the fact that it was on the whitest white girl in the history of whiteness.
Apparently our judges (sans Michael Kors, sadly), had trouble deciding who of the two should be the winner, so Emilio and Seth Aaron ultimately got to share the honor, a ProjRun first. Both of their outfits had their flaws in nearly equal amounts, so awarding the win to both of them seemed like the most fair way to take care of things. Personally, I think that Seth Aaron should have won just for wearing hot pink skinny jeans on a trip to Harlem.
Now, to the unpleasantness of the bottom two groups (and it was particularly unpleasant this week). Jay and Mila were charged with creating what should have been two interesting, edgy, downtown looks based on the East Village, but Mila just made another black and white outfit, and Jay was so focused on how much he abhors Mila’s existence that he forgot to make a tank top that wouldn’t make a girl’s boobs totally fall out.
Mila’s jacket coordinated with her skirt in color only (they were completely different styles, which all the judges failed to mention), but a bold choice saved the outfit – she paired her mini with bright red tights.
It’s important to realize that that’s a styling choice, not a design element. Mila certainly didn’t construct them herself, but it was apparently enough to distract everyone from the fact that she has no idea how to design with color. In this post’s comments, Mila claims to have constructed the tights herself and know how to design with color. Take that for what it’s worth, since we haven’t confirmed that it’s actually Mila. Either way, the tights saved the outfit and I’d like to see her work with more color.
In a state of equal trainwreckery, Amy and Jonathan somehow went to the Upper East Side, home to lots of ornate buildings and beautifully clothed women, and ended up making some kind of orange dreamsicle-colored tunic thingy and a cocktail dress that included every design technique that Jonathan knows how to do, even if they didn’t look right together at all. I actually had high hopes for the cocktail dress – when it was a flesh-colored sheath with a pleated bib, it looked totally appropriate and on-trend, based on what was on the Spring/Summer 2010 runways. After he got done splicing and dicing every inch, however, it just looked like Edward Scissorhands had had his way with it.
Jay of the horrible tank top and Amy of the horrible tunic were the bottom two and sadly, Amy had to go. I think she’s a good designer with good ideas, but I agree with the judges’ decision. She has made some beautiful outfits, but also a few that have been totally of the rails (hello, clown pants and the hair bowl dress), and Jay has been more consistently on-target and has won two challenges. I’m sorry to see Amy go, but eventually they all must.
Next week look like a lot of pattern – anyone know what the challenge is going to be? With any luck, it’ll be another visit with Diane Von Furstenberg.