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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ep 5: Brought to you by "Queen Bees and Wannabes*"

* Rosalind Wiseman, 2002. If you've never heard of it, it's a book that analyses the culture of teenage girls, and introduces four roles: Queen Bee, Wannabe, Target, and Torn Bystander.

First - a shout-out to Jean, who was the only person to attempt last week's Quotation Challenge, and got them all right! You rock, Jean. And if you're the same Jean who left me a message of encouragement a week or so ago, you double-rock!! Jean, I hope to be reading and commenting on your blog next season.

Now, Episode 5: The Dreaded Group Challenge (insert Dragnet theme, or maybe Law and Order sound effect, here). As the designers prepare to greet the day, there is much carping about Michael C's Philip Treacy win. Also being trashed - April's resort diaper. April says that nobody understood her outfit, and Peach notes that they both have Targets on their backs (see above).

Peach, there are worse things to have on your back.
AJ, please put some meat on your bones.
The runway: Heidi saunters out, wearing a dress that looks like film strips wound around her body. She tells the designers that they will be working in 2 teams of 6. Much apprehension is visible. Heidi: No team leader, winner is picked from the winning team, and someone from the losing team goes home.

Michael C as the previous winner gets to pick first, and he chooses Queen Bee Gretchen (total Wannabe move). April notes that he's nuts, because she's the Hitler of the workroom.

Mondo: "I can't find my mustache."
Peach is picked last but she keeps her sense of humor intact.

Peach: "Wanna see the Target on my back?"
The split turns out to be (in order of selection) Michael C, Gretchen, Christopher, Andy, Ivy and AJ against April, Mondo, Michael D, Valerie, Casanova and Peach. Peach notes that the other team looks like they should be standing in Superman poses.

"First, we will design capes."
The producers inform us that Michael C's team has 4 wins, and April's has 0. But April, who is mature beyond her years, says that the egos on that team are sure to cause issues. Heidi sends them all to Tim in the workroom to learn what the challenge is.

The Challenge: Make a 6-look collection that is on trend for Fall 2010. Choose one from each category:

Concepts: Minimalism | 50s Retro, Ladylike Shapes | Menswear for Women | Military

Textiles: Gold/Metallics | Camel | Leopard/Cheetah Prints | Plaid | Lace

Note to self: Shop your closet this Fall.

Also, Tim tries to help the Garnier expert stylist tie the challenge to hair care products, but we're wise to that, so this is the last you'll hear of it.

Tim tell them they have an hour to decide on their collection themes and sketch. He says they will get $1000 for the entire collection. That's $166/look.

Gretchen and Christopher are obviously not math people.
Make A Collection Challenges are traditionally train wrecks. Whether it's one collection for all (Season 1), small groups pitted against each other (Season 2, Lingerie; Season 3, Inc; Season 4; Trendsetter), or two large groups like this time, these challenges rarely produce anything worth wearing. Although in Season 4, Jillian made a lovely pale-blue chiffon blouse to go under her overalls.

April’s team, Team Bad News Bears because they are underdogs and also warm and fuzzy, is going to each do their own looks. But they are actively planning how to create cohesion by playing off aspects of each others’ sketches. Valerie kind of moderates, but everyone participates, and they get through a genteel little tantrum from Peach easily.

Democracy in action: Military and Lace

Michael C’s team (ha!), Team Mean Girls from here forward, is going to make individual pieces according to their strengths, so that all the looks will have pieces from different designers. Interesting – I don’t think anyone has taken that approach before.
Dictatorship in the making
Immediately, Michael C is scapegoated. Nothing he says or does is right, and Ivy in particular seems to be currying favor with Gretchen by picking on him (classic Queen Bee lieutenant). I'd like to say that Andy and Christopher don't follow suit, but they do. They all bond by leaving him out.

Ivy: "Michael, you better not rely on your immunity and dog it in the challenge. You might diminish our awesomeness"

When I picked Gretchen first, I thought that would get me into the In Crowd. Instead I'm the Target. Lesson learned.
While everyone is at Mood, Gretchen treats Michael like a backward 5 year old, mocking him with AJ.

Gretchen: "I wanted to put a toddler leash on Michael C, but he's so uncooperative."

Gretchen and AJ: A Dance to Our Own Awesomeness
Swatch: "Unbelievable."

Back in the workroom, everyone designs away until Tim comes for his Walkabout. He speaks with each team as a group. For Team BNB, he likes everything except what Casanova has done, which he says looks old.

Tim: "Youthen it up." 
Casanova: "Why do the judges think I have no taste?"
katnap: "You're wearing a sweater with man cleavage, a shiny polyester do-rag turban and Alladin shoes. Just sayin'."
While Tim talks to Team Mean Girls, who ignore his warning that their collection is bland in comparison to the other team's, Casanova has a meltdown.

Casanova: "Maybe I quit."
Valerie tries appealing to his sense of responsibility to the team, while Michael D goes for flattery.
Peach eventually replaces Ivy and tries Full Maternal Mode, even when Casanova moans that he's getting fat.
At last, his model Sarae talks to him and bucks him up (the opposite of what Tim unintentionally did, with a B instead of an F).

Casanova gets a new idea and executes it.

Meanwhile, Team MG has to draft the models as seamstresses to finish, but they ultimately all make it to the runway.

The judges are Michael, Nina and Georgina Chapman of Marchesa. She's been a judge at least once before, and I recall her being very level headed and incisive in her questions and critiques.

First up, Team Bad News Bears.

Well, the Bad News Bears start off with a double at least (first and last baseball reference-promise). The mustard colored leggings are kind of weird. If using them at all, it should be on a model with either darker or lighter skin - in the photo, it looks like she has baggy knees. But the shorts and halter are cool, and Nina will love the styling.

My rating: Safe, win or lose

Not crazy about this. The color scheme is weird - why introduce the red? - and the hardware on the skirt feels forced. Still, it's well made and it fits the model like a glove.

My rating: If Team BNB loses, I'm afraid it's bye-bye, Peach.

This challenge is the sweet spot for April. Love the zips at the ankles of the pants. One problem - the hideous visible gold zipper down the back. This is one trend that needs to go, and quickly. It ruins the visual line of just about all clothes, but particularly pants, and it looks cheap.

My rating: Safe

Meh. Like the separates, and the fact that you could mix the suit with Mondo's halter, Peach's camisole or Casanova's blouse. Still, the skirt seems boxy to me. Perhaps the suit should have been blue instead of white?

My rating: Safe

Gorgeous! The top is sexy, not slutty. The pants are a perfect fit and the gold button detail down the side is flattering. Plus, you could wear the pants with Ivy's jacket. They did a great job making this collection versatile.

My rating: The winner if Team BNB prevails.

Michael D
Cute dress, maybe over-embellished? The row of gold studs around the waist isn't all that kind to the model's body. One thing I like about this look and Casanova's - the models are wearing invisible but supportive bras. It makes the collection grown-up and charming rather than trashy, which military and lace could have easily veered into.

My rating: Safe

Looking at the collection as a whole, Team BNB did very well. The looks flow into each other, a lot of mix/match is possible, and they have pieces for many types of occassions, all in 6 outfits.I don't think another team has done better with a collection challenge in PR history. Gretchen says she "digs the elements, but they don’t go together." She is convinced her team has it in the bag.

Next, Team Mean Girls, with menswear for women in camel.

Wow. This is a spectacular failure. Everything about it is downright ugly. The slightly sheer white fabric is wrong for a dress. The cuffs on the sleeves are uneven and hit the arms at a dowdy spot. The way the dress clings to the leggings is awkward. The leggings themselves are unflattering. And the cranberry ascot is sort of 80s business/flight attendant. Hid E Ous.

My rating: If Team MG loses, this is a good contender for the auf.

This is nicely made, and it has some flair. The missteps are the ugly blouse fabric and the weird visible back zipper (see also April). Another quible - the model is braless and bouncing all over in the loose bust of the shirt. There's no way that the woman wearing these clothes is going anywhere where that would be remotely appropriate.

My rating: Safe, possibly the winner if this team comes out on top.

Beautiful fit, perfectly made. You could wear this to any office in the world that didn't require a burqa. But women all over the world already do - there's no innovation here at all.

My rating: Safe

Dowdy, awful, sad (which I didn't have to retype from last week, I'd like to note). Everything about this is unflattering, from the pleats and timid paperbag waist on the short to the cranberry leggings to the boxy blouse to the grandma vest with the horrid color-blocking. Ivy laughs with glee as this goes down the runway - she's perhaps still recovering from her trip to the hospital and suffering from delusions.

My rating: Tie for auf consideration with AJ, if this team loses, which they will if there's any justice.

I'm pretty sure you could put this together in any mall in America. The shimmer in the cowl top is a nice touch , but I hate the eye pattern that the vent makes in the back of the jacket. It's disturbing.

My rating: Safe

Michael C

The jacket and the clean styling of this look makes it the best of this sad little collection. The dress is nothing special, but at least there's nothing wrong with it.

My rating: If this team wins (you never know with the judging this season), this is my pick for the top outfit.

Team MG certainly lived up to the Project Runway tradition of truly awful collections. Boring, dowdy, ill-fitting, tasteless, sad.

Both teams file out onto the runway, and Heidi announces the winners.

Team Bad News Bears triumphs!
Team Mean Girls are sent backstage, where they assure themselves that they are still the most awesome in the land.

"The judges were incorrect."

Back on the runway, the judges are very complimentary.

Georgina:  Each design has its own attitude, yet they all work together.
Heidi: It has color, and it's young and fun.
Michael: Women will want to wear this.
Nina: Versatile, Great styling

Polled, all the members of Team BNB choose Casanova as the winner. Casanova chooses Peach.

Backstage, Team MG plan their runway strategy. They agree to stand united and not turn on each other.

Team BNB goes backstage, where there is no awkward meeting because Team MG is already gone. Too bad; I'm not usually one for the drama, but that would have been interesting to see.

Out on the runway, Gretchen tries to spin their collection: they truly collaborated, everyone contributed to the best of their ability (nice one), we made something beautiful and cohesive.

"We LOVE our collection. Remember, we all tried so hard, for us, and you and the nation, and the world..."

"It's like they had a baby and someone said it was ugly."


Gretchen tells the judges they should keep “who you want to see more from” and makes a speech about standing united. Michael cries bullshit. He says that their grandstanding is all very well, but their work was "vanilla boring."
Georgina: When they lost the individuality of the looks, they lost any flair.
Nina: Every outfit has a proportion problem, no sex appeal, ghastly colors
Michael: You call yourselves Team Luxe (I was shielding you from that), and there’s no lushness.
Heidi: Ivy’s is the worst and AJ's is also awful.

"Our collection was crap! All I could do was try to save it, and teach boys who don't know how to sew..."

"Unbelievable. You've done a 180 - Michael Kors, note the correct geometry terminology"
Michael says sportswear should be Gretchen’s sweet spot, and they ask who was the most challenged. Gretchen now throws Michael C, who has immunity, under the bus, as Georgina compliments his blouses. She claims that helping Michael C made her not have time to do her own work. The others all pile on Michael except AJ, while Heidi defends Michael. The judges keep reminding them that Michael has immunity, and they keep harping on Michael. The most egregious remark comes from Ivy:

Ivy:"I'm not sure whether Michael C's problem is laziness or just ignorance."
katnap: "Unbelievable."
Finally, they point out what they each made. It's not really relevant except that Ivy made the ugly shorts outfit in it's entirety, AJ only made the shirtdress, and Andy made the one awesome garment – the camel jacket worn over the dress.

Team Mean Girls joins the winners backstage. Gretchen has changed her tune from when she gretched at the people in the bottom, grilling them about their failures. She says she isn't  going to talk about it, then trashes Michael C to the room right to his face, and the Wannabes pile on again.

He is amazingly resigned about the whole thing. Part of the Queen Bee dynamic is how everyone involved, including the Target, believes that it is right and inevitable.

The judges confer: Ivy’s was hideous, AJs was terrible and only he only completed one piece. Gretchen had much too much to say and changed her tune. Michael points out that Gretchen was the bus driver – but if she supposedly negated her own taste, what did she do it for? Excellent point. They call the designers out for the verdict.

Casanova is the winner, and the rest of the Bad News Bears are in. Well done!

Michael C has immunity and is in – he very classily tells the Mean Girls good luck. Then he goes backstage and breaks down. He deserves kudos for holding it together as long as he did.

Christopher is in.

Ivy is in – shocking that she was called safe before Andy.

Andy is in.

Gretchen is –  in.

AJ is out – he wishes he’d gone on something that was his point of view.

But it isn’t over yet. Tim enters and delivers a truly Tim Gunn-esque smackdown that must be directly quoted.
"I fundamentally do not understand your behavior and demeanor and affect on the runway. I don’t get it. I don’t know why you allowed Gretchen to manipulate, control and bully you. I don’t understand it. And, AJ, you’ve taken the bullet and now I have to send you to the workroom to clean up your space."
AJ goes with gracious words about the experience.

Ivy at least says she had an Aha moment. We'll see. Will the Chief Wannabe turn on her Queen?

"I 'm a martyr, Tim hurt my feeling, the dog ate AJ's shirt dress..." 
So, what do you think? Will the Queen Bee learn a lesson, or lose her power over the Wannabes? Or will it be Runway as usual next week, which appears to be the "real people" challenge?