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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ep 1: Still auditioning? The new format

Have to say, Lifetime really made it easy to get to know the designers before the start of the season. I prepared by watching the casting session videos  - wanted to see the clothes without knowing if the designer has some pet they treat like a person or a hundred pairs of shoes or a big Justin Beiber poster. My early faves: Valerie, Kristin, Andy.

As a daily visitor to Blogging Project Runway (yes, even in the off-season), I already knew that one designer would get cut "before the start of the actual show." Except, if they film it and broadcast it, I think we can all agree it's Episode One. Anyway, BPR also clued us all into the fact that S8 started on Tim Gunn's birthday - so this recap might be a tiny big influenced by the Prosecco that katspouse Chris and I were celebrating with. Chris is one of those husbands that started out making jokes about my PR obsession, then sat down and started watching. And now we critique the ties on newscasters together.

Heidi and Tim start the show with pithy intros to the designers as they make their way to wherever the show starts. The first designer to introduce herself is Ivy, who's a positive bundle of confidence, or in reality TV parlance, Riding for a Fall. Next is Carlos Casanova ("Casanova, please.") He's going to take NY from the balls. According to Chris, he's come to NYC in search of an adult-size tie, since they apparently only make them in child-size in Puerto Rico.

Next is Sarah, who's work appears to be Little House on the Prarie meets Cocktail Party in the Desert. BTW, Ivy's on the ferry, Sarah's at the airport, and Casanova's at Grand Central. You'd think that the guy from Puerto Rico would be on a boat and the woman from NY would be in a cab, but I may be overthinking.

AJ, young and sort of Daniel Vosovic-ish, joins Sarah at the airport and is thrilled not to have been required to converse with an old lady. Aaaaand, cue the old lady: Peach from Illinois, who dresses ladies who lunch. She's pretty fab, sassily informing Nicholas, a very tall blond guy, that they're the same height. He smiles that he can't wait to beat her. She tells him to get ready to get schooled. Although I doubt she has a prayer to win, based on the sweater printed with whimsical lipstick and shoes and whatnot she wears in her interviews, I'm kind of rooting for her, since we're in the same age range.

Kristin from Philly (where katson Eric lives) and McKell from Utah join Casanova at the train station. We've heard that McKell has a little baby twice now. She's adorable and her clothes look cute, but I'm thinking that might be a Reality Show Death Knell. Kristin's motto is Embrace the Crooked Zipper. That might not resonate so well with Michael and Nina, but it could make a great album title for Spinal Tap.

Jason thinks that a bowler hat will make him intimidating, like (Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy?)"Roman soldiers and American Indians with their Mohawks." I'm pretty sure that Roman soldiers didn't wear Mohawks - that was decorations on their helmets, Jason.

He proves himself even more clueless when he's joined by Gretchen. He aggressively asks her about her ancestry. She's puzzled but game, and answers, and then he further tries to intimidate her by telling her he's Italian. Whatever. She responds with a silence where you'd hear crickets if they weren't on a NY streetcorner.

Cue the crickets
Nicholas and Peach join Mondo on a boat. It's like a new ice cream flavor - introducing Peach Mondo. The image is complete when we see Mondo in his interview outfit, a black shirt with a little white bow tie.

They talk about what they did before this. Nicholas was (Clinton Kelly's stunt double?) an architect.

Next we meet Christopher from San Francisco - and he's in a cab. The modes of transportation are confusing. April is a recent college graduate who finds beauty in things that are dying. And at the airport, Michael C. from Palm Springs does a cute interview where he makes devil horns with his fingers, and not in a Metal way.

They and the other three contestants meet outside Lincoln Center, the New Bryant Park, and Heidi and Tim emerge. Here we learn that today they'll have their first challenge, runway show, and elimination. Disconcerted designers all around.

First commercial break - this is when I begin to wonder if the 90 minute format is just making room for an extra 30 minutes of commercials, because it's 5 minutes long. Makes me nostalgic for the good old pre-Reagan deregulation days when shows were required to have programming for 48 minutes of every hour.

Back in PRland, the designers are instructed to pull an item of clothing out of their suitcases to incorporate into their garment. Peach kisses a pair of fug toile pants goodbye. We find out that Michael D works in knitwear, which makes me wonder if he actually sews. Annnnd cue The Twist: they now have to pass their clothing one person to the right. Disconcerted designers redux. Casanova, who has clearly never seen PR (Project Runway, not Puerto Rico) before, is upset because his $1070 D & G pants are about to be cut up. Chris now knows why Casanova couldn't afford a full-size tie.

Tim tells them they have 5 hours (!!!).  Heidi says they have to visibly incorpoate what they're holding into their garment - meaning no using it for stuffing or a lining. We get a bit  more on Gretchen, who lives a self-described pseduo hippie lifestyle and creates her line from sustainable fabric. She seems pretty down-to-earth.

Parsons! The workroom has gotten a lick of paint. We meet Valerie who mentions a thrift-store childhood, from who's clothing is very functional and very cool. Tim pays the bills by showing the designers the Brothers sewing room and the HP computer workpads. Andy (a dead ringer for Angel from The Fashion Show - she made the single best garment from that debacle) is from Hawaii and "works from an authentic place."

Fraternal twins?

They sketch and go to the Mood Annex, which is basically a lot of fabric in the next room.

Now we get to see the things that I've missed over the last several seasons of PR - the designers thinking through their garments. If the 90 minute format means more of this, then I'm a fan. Lots of stuff about Casanova's late lamented trousers.

After three more minutes of commercials, Tim does his walk-through. He loves McKell's shirtdress, is a bit dubious about Nichols's gown, and asks Casanova if his garment is sexy or vulgar. Vulgar it is.

April has deconstructed a tuxedo jacket to messy effect. Jason is basically doing nothing to a kimono. Gretchen clearly has a very clear thought-process. Peach is having a hard time incorporating the tube scarf she got from Michael D, and Tim helps her out. She pronounces him a god, which we all knew. Mondo is doing something godawful with making bra cups out of cap sleeves, incorporating couch fabric.

Tim touts the Piperlime (who?) Accessory Wall and then sends in the models. Ivy compares herself to a quiet storm and the Energizer Bunny. Creepy Jason is turned on by his busty model. We spend more time in hair and makeup then ever before. And before you know it they have 15 minutes to the show. Kristin has forgotten about her model, who seems to be in New Jersy by the time she runs all over the building to get her. Lots of last minute sewing, except from Creepy Jason who uses staples. Casanova's model was undressed, and then once he puts the garment on her she's still pretty much naked.

And it's time for the runway show. Intro Michael, Nina, and guest judge Selma Blair, who I like because I appreciate dark-haired actresses who don't keep getting progressively blonder.

Runway time!

I might be in the minority, but I like this a lot. The colors are fresh, the proportions are great, and the zipper detail is cool. Downside: the back didn't fit, and I don't know what it is with designers and mermaid shell-bra detailing. It's just silly. Remember Michael Knight's couture dress? Once he folded the cups down at Heidi's behest, it looked 10 times better.

My rating: Top 3

This is a well-made snooze. Based on this and the pants, it seems like Peach really goes for the wallpaper prints. I don't see the judges being charmed by that. The tulle in the back is also weird, and there's something a little off about the neckline - doesn't quite match. But, 5 hours, people.

My rating: Safe

This looked better on the dress form. The halter cut on the shirt is unflattering, the epaulettes don't sit on the shoulders right, and the shirt sits too high for the relative bulkiness of the material. It looks like maternity wear. I think the materials are nice together, but Chris thinks they clash. Don't know what's up with the hair, and Christopher is wrong when he whispers to McKell that the bag is perfect. The bag is random. Still...

My rating: Safe

Besides the bizarre cocktail-umbrella-and-chopsticks concoction in the hair, this ensemble is astonishing. The pants, top and cape are beautifully made. The proportions are great. It's a bit severe, bit shows a true point of view.

My rating: Top 3, my pick for the win

I'm not sure about this one - there's something proportionally wrong about it. It's a bit too short or the torso maybe needs to be a bit longer. Or maybe it's the pumps, which are a weird choice with a short coverall. Plus, it's boring. But it's well-sewn and hey, 5 hours.

My rating: Safe

Chris really loved this. I think it's pretty for what it is, and I like the fabric, but I'm not sure why he made this. The only answer to the classic question, "Where is this girl going?" has to be the Habitat for Humanity Volunteers Ball. But in the right mood, the judges might like the evening/utility combo.

My rating: Safe

Glad to see that Mondo decided against the pea-green bra cups he was thinking of using, but it's unattractive. The pea green, which he didn't choose, is a tough color, but chevron-patterned couch fabric makes a strange pairing. The styling does nothing for the model. With her straight eyebrows and large features, stick-straight hair is a really bad choice. She looks like an angry Cher circa 1974.

My rating: Safe

Hate the pants, but the top is kind of groovy. These are the pants that Peach kissed goodbye. I think they're too much of Ivy's outfit. Ruched capri pants are never a good answer, especially in a print that belongs on a powder room wall. 

My rating: Safe, because of the shirt

Michael C
Love the top, hate the hooker skirt. With a less shiny shirt, the drape and backlessness of the top would be sexy, but the patent skirt makes the whole outfit look cheap.

My rating: Safe

This might not be a popular opinion, but I really like this. The kilt-as-collar works with the oragami shape. This dress isn't for everyone, but it shows a lot of skills. I also like the way the texture of the black fabric echoes the plaid of the kilt.

My rating: Top 3

Another snooze, not much to say about it. It's well-made and (all togther now) - 5 hours, so I guess boring isn't the worst crime (see the next look).

My rating: Safe

What a mess! The hem is chewed up and uneven, and the jacket is just inside out with the sleeves pulled off. April might have had something deconstructed in mind, but she clearly doesn't have the construction skills to even begin in 5 hours. 

My rating: Bottom 3

At first glance, I wasn't very impressed. But then I noticed the flattering drape of the sleeve, and the way the shape of the hem is echoed by the sheer capelet in the back. The styling is also nice - great hair, the bootie adds some cool to the look, and the lack of accessories makes the beading on the sleeves stand out.

My rating: Safe

Michael D

It's hard to tell what Michael did to this, but the beadwork at the neck in the back is very cool with the fabric. Not too sure aboiut the placement of the "Indian" medalion on the front - feels like it should be higher or lower.
My rating: Safe

This is an insult to the show - the kimono is turned backwards into an ugly hair salon cape held together with staples. Not only should this be out, but Creepy Jason deserves to have his name and image stricken from all reference to project Runway now and in the future.   

My rating: Bottom 3, and my choice for OUT

A cliche with a tin-foil bow, but it shows effort and construction skills. 

My rating: Safe

There are no words. OK, there are a few - vulgar, silly, ugly. 

My rating: Bottom 3, and if more than one person goes home, Casanova should go too.

Heidi asks AJ, Andy, Valerie, Sarah, Peach and Kristin to step forward, and Chris & I think maybe this is the top and bottom group, so we're confused when she keeps calling names... Michael C, Mondo, Michael D, Christopher. This is obviously the Safe group. They go backstage, jubilant.

With seven designers left on the runway, Heidi announces that they have a rare unanimous decision on...

The Winner

If we're still working off the fiction that this isn't part of the show, should there even be a winner? There should just be In and Out. But since they chose one, I'm surprised there wasn't at least some consideration of Andy's work. Gretchen goes backstage and tries a fake-out that doesn't work - congrats from the other designers.

And this is what we have left.
And now we're really confused, because which of these could be second and third? Chris & I are debating whether it's Ivy and McKell, when Heidi says that since this isn't an actual episode, they're all on the bottom, "and one or more of you will be out." So, Jason and Casanova? No, it's another you're-still-auditioning twist: they're all on the bottom. And there may be more than one going.

Ivy: Says that she added lots of detail. The judges say it's awful, "mumsy" "pants out of pants" "bad outfit
 night at the small-town bar." Ivy stands behind it.

Jason: Explains his stapled mess by saying the kimono didn't fit his model, so he pinned it. Bizarrely, Selma likes the drabness of it. Nina at least bothers to ask if he thought they wouldn't notice that he didn't actually sew anything, and Jason pleads time constraints.

April: Talks about what she tried to accomplish. The judges call it a hot mess, and April acknowledges the point, saying she'd like another chance to show what she can do with more time. I'm impressed with her mature acceptance of the criticism.

McKell: Tells them she wanted to contrast the plain shirt with a luxurious fabric. The judges like the fabrics together but hate the styling, which is pretty all over the place.

Nicholas: Looks like he's going to melt into a puddle. The judges don't think he's taken the evening/sportwear combo far enough.

Casanova: brings out Michael's flights of hyperbole, "mother of the bride belly dancer" "conservative sexaholic" "pole dancer in Dubai". Selma loved it and loathed it. Heidi asks Casanova why he should stay on the show. He doesn't understand, and Nina translates in a nice moment.

The judges hate Ivy's outfit but acknowledge she can make clothes. Casanova's garment could be sold in a mall store called Razzle Dazzle and also sells wigs. They liked Jason's styling. April at least was doing something modern. McKell gets no love because she's uncool. Nicholas is boring but the clothing was well-finished.

The verdict: April is in. Nicholas is in (and practically licks their boots over it). Jason is in; "We are intriqued." Chris & I are shocked. McKell is out, and now we're incredulous. And so are the designers backstage, who think McKell is joking when she tells them she's going home. Ivy and Casanova are in.


Tim sends poor McKell to clean up her space. McKell says she won't quit.

We cry bullshit! April, Casanova, and Jason's were all much worse. This is one of the strangest decisions since Allison Kelly got sent home in S3 over the "fat Minnie Mouse" look.The only good thing is Tim has said that McKell was allowed to go back to her baby instead of being sequestered.

So the 90 minute show was about 30% commercials, but we got more of the work process and a bit more Tim, so for now I'd call it a qualified success.

What do you think? Was McKell robbed? Does the 90 minute format work?


  1. Hey, just found your site from - wanted to say that I am enjoying your opinions. I am also a long-time fan who loves to read blogs about PR, but have never blogged about it myself. So, bravo to you for starting this season. Maybe I'll have the guts by next season. Anyway, just wanted to encourage you some!