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Monday, August 9, 2010

Ep 2: Down the emotional and physical drain

Last week: McKell was sent home for no understandable reason, while Creepy Jason and Cassssanova were passed along for same.

This week: hoping the judges are less crack-addled

Opening up-and-at-em montage: Sarah is pretty sure that the show isn't about design, it's about public torture of designers. I'd pay to see that if it involved Donatella Vesace and Betsey Johnson. Several of female designers are sad that McKell is gone, but happy to have only three sharing the bathroom. Peach thinks that the men, whom she terms high-maintenance, are probably having a harder time. Cue the shot of Andy's air-brush foundation sprayer.

Andy: "Don't judge me."
Peach is a pip; I hope she stays around a while just for the commentary, but think it unlikely given her "ladies-at-lunch" (att: Heidi Klum) aesthetic.

Mondo's roommates don't know what to make of him, and he's starting to isolate himself. Poor guy.

The designers are greeted on the Atlas roof  by Tim and Heidi with not champagne, but Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Marie Claire.

She explains the challenge: They have a design a look that embodies the Marie Claire woman - who is intelligent, practical, fashion forward, confident, and sexy - at a glance.

Now, I'm three and a half of five of those things, and I don't read Marie Claire. When it first came to the US, I tried it for a while, but found it too simplistic. I used to read Vogue, but got tired of the emphasis on socialites, who have to be the most bone-deeply boring people on the planet. IMO, Elle is the best fashion mag - it assumes the reader has a brain, doesn't assume an unlimited budget, and shows some imagination beyond the latest way to Drive Him Wild in Bed.

Anyway, back to the challenge - the winning design will be featured on a billboard in Times Square! That's huge in every sense. Kudos to PR for getting such a major reward for only the second challenge. Christopher calls it "operatic," which is an adjective that is worthy of Tim Gunn.

They have $150 dollars, one day, 30 minutes to sketch.

AJ, in nautical mode, says he's doing something rock, grunge, Gwen Stefani/Courtney Love. But his sketch is more Kelly LeBrock on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

Michael D is having brain freeze, so he decides to  be inspired by his fabric.

Gretchen is making pants, which she's never done before. This woman has some steel ovaries.

Creepy Jason is going to make an Infinity Dress (didn't they do that challenge in Season 5?) that he's been thinking about for a while. Plus, the infinity symbol will also signify S8. I suppose, if f well-made, this could be a tour de force. But that's a great big If with this guy.

Nicholas is making an architectural miniskirt, drapey top, and jacket that's made out of a circle of fabric. Is this Project Runway or Hands-on Geometry? He thinks it will  be innovative. I think these folks are getting a little too into their concepts. Remember Malvin's Chicken and Egg  maternity outfit in Season 6?

Valerie is going to modernize and sexify a tench dress, in a bright color for the billboard. That sounds like a smart strategy.

Thank you, Mood!

Peach knows she's in bad shape with her fabric choices, which are same-old-same-old for her. The designers complain about broken needles and strange tension in the sewing machines - must be a few designers who aren't used to sewing.

Casanova asks AJ to help him figure out his pattern. AJ isn't having it, and Casanova is offended and bewildered, although he says he isn't. I think Nina needs to translate the word "competition" for him.

Time for Tim's walkabout. I love this segment and am happy that the new format allows for more of it. A few years ago, a friend gave me a button that says What Would Tim Gunn Say?, which I have on my bulletin board next to my phone at work. It's saved me from, shall we say, being more forthcoming with my reactions than is wise, on many occasions. And every Tim walkabout is a chance to learn new honest but subtle means of expression.

He "responds positively" to Valerie's screaming red trench dress, but thinks a brassy zipper would look cheap. He compliments Mondo's alteration of his ep1 design based on Tim's feedback. Mondo doesn't have a sketch, but Tim is willing to trust him based on past performance.

Tim likes Creepy Jason' palette, but is concerned about the concept and Jason's progress. His face says it all.

Creepy Jason's response: He whines that he should get a break for being a straight guy in a gay man's world. Asshat.

Tim congratulates Gretchen on her win, and she very oddly sings in response.

Next up, Casanova: Tim tell him he's baffled. Casanova says he's gone from "prostitute to virgin." Tim says it's matronly.

katnap: Quit insulting matrons.
And as a person who probably qualifies as a matron, I say we need a new word. I wouldn't be caught dead in that. Casanova indicates that he doesn't understand Tim, and Nicholas cries bullshit. He thinks Casanova is faking his language issues. Interesting.

Nicholas shows Tim his lavender satin top, which has some cool gathering in front and a cutout in the back. Gretchen thinks it's a ripoff of her dress, but I don't think she owns the back cut-out. The problem with it is that it's too big - there's no way to wear a bra, and the fabric is too clingy. It's hard to see wear it could be worn. Tim thinks the circle cape is too Red Riding Hood.

Michael C is trash-talking to the interview dress forms about his jacket, but Tim's response: "this worries me."

I kind of love Michael C. He's very Chris March in his sense of fun. He's made a shiny brocade jacket with with big shoulders and sleeves. Tim calls it "Blanche Deveroux." I'd say Alexis Carrington. Michael says he thought it was fashion forward, and Tim turns it around to point out the bow in the back. Ha!

Peach is making a brown high-necked halter with little cutouts in back, and a ivory and pink polka dot skirt that looks like culottes - there's something chunky about it. She knows she's lost, and this time Tim doesn't have the answer. She decides to start over.

Flurry of designers having cows. Peach's second skirt is also bad, and she ditches that one too.

And here comes The Twist. In the morning, each designer will have a photo shoot with a Marie Claire photographer. The designers, who were expecting to have to make another garment, are jubilant. They need to capture an image to best show the garment and the Marie Claire woman, and the judges will take the photo into account in the judging.

Models come in, hugs all around. Asshat Jason thinks his garment will be badass, and he's half right. Casanova is consulting with Gretchen on his lapels, styling, etc. She doesn't mind helping him since he's charming. I think she's enjoying the chance to be didactic. Peach goes back to the original skirt, but ditches the brown halter for a polka dot top. IMO, wrong direction.

In the sewing room, Nicholas complains that his models tits are too big. To which Valerie responds, "Whoa, Nelly!" Valerie's a bit of a nerd, but she's a talented nerd.

At midnight, Peach feels defeated, but plans to get some sleep and take a fresh look in the morning. Back at Atlas, Valerie says that she, Ivy, Sarah and Gretchen are having a blast as roommates. The guys think Asshat Jason is a bit shady .

Michael D, Casanova, Jason and Christopher are having a toast, and someone asks where Mondo is. He's alone in his room, feel lonely. He feels that he's only valued for his work, not himself, and curses his talent. You know, I feel for him, but the problem isn't talent, it's social skills. Of all groups of people, he should be able to make a connection with the designers. The Catch-22 is that someone like him needs to reach out, but for someone like him, that's the hardest thing.

Morning of photo shoot and runway day. Ivy is worried because she's second guessing herself asking what the judges will like. Mondo has woken up with a fresh attitude and a determination to roll with the punches. Go, Mondo!

In the workroom, Tim tells them to think editorial, and make sure that the photo shoot reflects their attitudes as designers. Then it's model fittings, hair and makeup. All the designers have strong ideas about how they want the models to look.

Peach says she's happy that she managed to get the model covered, "but she's covered with Barbie's sofa."  Even in extremis, Peach is a stitch.

Tim calls them to the photo shoot. Asshat Jason ran out of time and is using safety pins instead of buckles. Even in 1978 no one used safety pins with satin, dude. Ivy and Valerie think the dress is awful, and Michael C is humoring him with the whole infinity deal, because he thinks Asshat Jason might just come behind him with a shiv.

Zanna Roberts Rassi , a Marie Claire editor, and Mark Liebowitz, photographer, are on hand for the photo shoots. I'm going to save commentary on the clothes for the runway segment, and just recap the designers' skill with the photo shoot now.

AJ, Gretchen and especially April seem confident working with the models to get the right shots. Andy and Michael C get nice shots, but Christopher's aren't quite interesting. Nicholas and Valerie also get great pictures. Kristin says her model is portraying someone serious, but her photos seem sort of junior department, with big grins.

Sarah gives her model a story to help her get in the right mood. Peach's model is pretty stiff, and Peach doesn't know what to do about it.  Casanova indicates to his model to pose like she's in a 50s catalog (my 70s and 80s references are first-hand, but my knowledge of the 50s comes mostly from movies). Mondo knows exactly what he wants and directs his model very confidently.

Asshat Jason wants his photo to read as tough. Zanna and Mark tell him that's not Marie Claire, but he selects the toughest photo anyway. It also shows a hole in the garment that is clearly a flaw.

Asshat Jason interviews that the judges need to look past the closures and the flaws because he isn't "prototype Jack." It's "emotionally and physically draining" for him.

Runway time! The judges are Michael, Nina and Joanna Coles. Heidi does her recap. There's no immunity since the winning prize is so big, and one or more of you may be OUT.

Separates are usually something Michael goes crazy for, but it might not work out that way for Nicholas. The skirt has interesting if wonky shape and seaming. Although the front of the blouse has nice detailing, the back is so bare that there's no way to wear a bra. The cape is just silly

My rating: Safe

The vest/jacket and skirt are nicely made. I like the hints of color at hip, sleeve and collar, although ochre doesn't flatter too many women. This is pretty much a snooze. Christopher needs to show some innovation soon.

My rating: Safe

Hid. E. Ous.  

My rating: Bottom 3, and my choice for OUT

Michael C
Michael did a nice job of recovering from the jacket debacle. Although this is still a bit too 80s, it uses an unexpected pattern, does metallic tastefully, and is well styled. I know where this woman is going, and it looks like she's going to have fun there.

My rating: Top 3

Yep, 80s Cosmo cover, but at least he tried for a cohesive look that would stand out on a billboard. Unfortunately, when the model walked the skirt rode up at the waist so that by the end of the runway, she looked like she was wearing a bolster farthingale (look it up). 

My rating: Safe

Oh, Peach! If she had built her outfit around the brown halter, she would have ended up with something that looked at least half modern. This is sort of a "playsuit", a concept I've never understood, and the brown ruffle across the neck and down the back would have inspired Uncle Nick to do a "look at my wickety-wack" redux.

My rating: Bottom 3, unfortunately

Michael D
Michael did let himself be inspired by his fabric, and the look is fine, although much better close up than from a distance. But it was so short in back that we almost had a Zulema/Ping buttock exposure moment.
My rating: Safe, but barely (pun intended)

Ivy needs to get her mojo back. It's clear that her loss of confidence is making her timid. Even 40 feet tall, this look wouldn't cause anyone to look twice. 

My rating: Safe (much too)

Valeria nailed it. It's modern, eye-catching, spans many ages, beautifully made. If this was the image of the Marie Claire woman, I'd give the magazine another chance.

My rating: Top 3 - the clear winner

As a sort of re-imagined sailor dress, this works pretty well. The matchy-matchy clutch and the yellow pumps have got to go, though. 

My rating: Safe

Love the colors, love the convertible sleeves, love that the bow isn't the cliche it first seems. The purple racing stripes in the back on the pant legs are, shall we say, over-exuberant, but overall, this is very cool.

My rating: Top 3

Not only is this matronly, the fit of the skirt is so bad that I can't tell if it's ruched or not. The proportion of the lapels is off with the sleeves also. I'm starting to think that Casanova simply doesn't have an eye.

My rating: Bottom 3

I'm afraid Kristin may be a one-trick pony. This outfit is an ice cream colored pile of laundry. During her photo shoot, she described the woman who would wear this as a serious assistant provost. I think that when the customer for a look is so specific, it means there's something wrong with it. Garments should appeal to a broader range, such as "creative professional" or "confident woman on a date." I could see the Marie Claire woman in one of these pieces mixed with a basic, but not all three of them together.

My rating: Safe, but only just

A calf-length, batwing-sleeved jumpsuit? Who could, or would, wear this, especially with the utility boots? The already-bare neckline can be made barer by unzipping to the waist, something I'm sure Heidi will like. In terms of styling, Gretchen didn't accessorize her first look either, so I'm wondering if she chooses not to, or if she can't. 

My rating: Safe


Great skirt, the leggings are cool with it, but I think the - what? jabot, bib, let's just call it it embellishment - on the top is very Fozzie Bear. Which isn't surprising, given that Mondo is wearing little Muppet tribbles himself.
My rating: Safe

The dress is certainly well-made, if drab, but the goth shrug certainly isn't Marie Claire

My rating: Safe

Heidi calls Mondo, Peach, Nicholas, Jason, Valerie and Gretchen to step forward. The are the top and bottom.

Safe:  Christopher, Michael C, AJ, Michael D, Ivy, Sarah, Andy, Casanova (!), Kristin, April

Michael D and AJ, they of the fit issues, are visibly relieved. Backstage, AJ looks like he's having an asthsma attack. The designers are all sure that Valerie will take the win, and are divided about who's going home. Christopher says that Jason is a very talented menswear designer, and Kristin thinks it would be "very unfair"(!) if Jason went home.

On the runway, Peach is up first. She says polka dots are youthful and happy, and would be eye-catching on a billboard. Heidi says that the Marie Claire woman is strong, powerful, fashion-forward and hip, and the outfit is none of those things. Michael calls it an Amish cocktail dress and my girl Peach laughs ruefully. Nina points out that the styling "lady bun, pumps, pearl earrings" make it old lady, and Joanna Coles says it looks like there's an animal crawling down the back. Peach explains she was trying to add texture, and that this was her third look. The judges look impressed with her construction ability, so she may have saved herself.

Valerie is next. She explains that she was inspired by the Marie Claire woman and New York, and that she wanted innovative yet simple and elegant. There's a SATC reference, but I think that ship should have long since sailed, so I'm not repeating it. Nina thinks she managed to balance sexy and conservative, and the detail would look great on a billboard. Michael thinks it's a job well done, Heidi says that the red is powerful. She notes that Joanna is wearing red and that she's very powerful. Amusingly, Joanna dryly agrees. Joanna likes that Valerie talked about her look very intelligently.

Asshat Jason says that his looks is night-to-day and youthful. He explains his infinity concept and says he's really happy with it. Micheal says it doesn't work for day or night, and Joanna thinks that in the selected photo, the model looks furious that she's forced to wear it on a billboard in Times Square. she also points out the hole in the middle that was obviously a mistake since it isn't visible on the runway. Heidi asks if he thinks it's Marie Claire, and he answers pretty smartly that it's "me for Marie Claire." He tries to mitigate by showing that the look has many options, but they shut him down. He handles this a lot more mildly than I expected.

Gretchen says she wanted her look to fill the page, since it's going on a billboard. I don't love her designs, but she is a very effective thinker - she really grasps the considerations inherent to each challenge. She says someone as young as 22 and women into their 40s and 50s would want to wear the jumpsuit. She's wrong there - very few women over 28 would wear that. It's too unforgiving and costumey. Heidi does indeed love the reveal possibilities that the zipper provides. Michael and Joanna love the picture and the styling. Michael points out that it could be worn with a turtleneck or tank under it (and anyone over 25 who hasn't had implants would probably need to, IMO).

Nicholas begins his explanation with his concept of the circle, which no one cares about. Joanna says it's unsexy, Nina says it has way too much going on for a billboard, and Michael points out that in Nicholas's  photo, the cape was off, showing that Nicholas knew then it didn't work. They all think the blouse is pretty, but when the model turns around, the cutout is a problem. Nicholas says it's day-to-night, but Michael counters that she shouldn't need to wear the cape all day.

Mondo says his goal was young and flirty with a touch of whimsy but still practical, and I'd say he achieved it except the scarf detailing on the top gives me the willies. He says he was inspired by the opening of the Mary Tyler Moore show, and how cute she looked. This strikes a chord with Joanna, who came to the US because of Mary Tyler Moore. Nina and Joanna both love the spirit and the styling, they agree that "this is the first time they've agreed on anything." Actually, that makes 2. Michael thinks that a look of girls would want to be her. And I think that's true, but I don't know if a lot of women would.

"Designers, leave the runway," quoth Heidi.

Backstage, Asshat Jason thinks the judges didn't understand his concept, and blames the failure of his look on the fact that his model is "a beautiful girl, but not a runway model." Gretchen calls him on it - good for her - and other designers pile on. Asshat Jason interviews that he's had a chip on his shoulder his whole life, because he's a always been misunderstood, and he doesn't care what the other designers think, because they don't interest him. Boo and hoo.

The judges talk about what they like:

Mondo's is exuberant, has movement, makes feminine use of tweed, and has Marie Claire-esque confidence.

Gretchen's is sophisticated without being old, seasonless and ageless, modern and would look great on a billboard.

Valerie's is sexy without being vulgar, a perfect cover dress, that's like a go-to outfit "a really good friend." We get a cute shot of Valerie in which she looks like Anna Paquin's - no, Sookie Stackhouse's older sister.

And what the judges didn't like:

Jason's gets an ugh, a gosh, and a "has he ever spoken to a woman?"

Nicholas's is too ambitious and poor realized, and the back looks like the model got hungry and chomped a bite out of the back.

Peach's is Desperate Housewives, full-on Stepford Wife, or either too young or too old. Reminds me of the line on Glee when Kurt says that Rachel manages to dress like a grandmother and a toddler at the same time.

The designers come back out.

Mondo is third, and safe ("good job!"). Mondo is happy and seems to be bonding more with his fellow designers.

The Winner

Whatever, judges.

Gretchen's excited about the billboard and thanks the other designers for their support. Not sure the other designers are swallowing that.

Valerie is second. She gets a much bigger round of applause than Gretchen from the other designers. She feels a bit defeated in having come so close.

Peach is safe ("for today"). It's clear the other designers have as much affection for her as I do when she gets backstage.


He won't sit with the other designers, wishes them luck at least, and Asshat Jason jackasses into the sunset - totally dissing Tim. to be fair, Tim's Take tells us that Jason actually went away in an ambulance at some point, so maybe Jason was getting a black-hat edit here.  


Shocker! They so often threaten to send more than one designer home, but almost never do it. Nicholas barely holds it together on the runway, and is in full sob by the time he gets backstage. I don't think he was temperamentally suited to reality TV, but he had more potential than Casanova or, sorry to say, my friend Peach. The designer and Tim comfort him.

Gretchen gets to go to the shoot, where model Coco Rocha models the jumpsuit. She's amazing; her poses look like she in The Matrix. The billboard is pretty cool, and Gretchen goes to see it with her PR pals. It gives her a sense that she has a future in fashion, and "My Mom's going to be so proud." Aww.

So, were you surprised that they actually sent more than one designer home? Did you think Nicholas deserved the auf?

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