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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ep10: I Feel Free

Atlas in the A.M. Valerie is sad that Ivy is gone. In a stunning but characteristic bit of hubris, Gretchen believes that Mondo is her biggest competition. Mondo, on the other hand, sees Andy as his biggest competition. That's probably closer to the mark - the most likely top three at this point are Mondo, Andy, and April.

Heidi, going overboard following the Legs-or-Boobs Rule

Heidi appears to have forgotten her leggings.She tells the designers they will be "starting from scratch." In the workroom, they are greeted by photos of themselves and their families when they were kids, displayed on HP monitors.

Tim and a very rehearsed marketing woman from HP tells them that they get to repeat the HP challenge from last year. They will design a print inspired by "a moment in time very influential to you," presumably from their own lives.

Tim escorts the HP Marketer out.
Now begins the Humanize the Designers segment. Andy says he's a real mama's boy. Michael C says that he and his mother were estranged for a while but are close now.

"This was taken after my mother caught me outside twirling around in a skirt, and she ripped it off me." Wow.

Mondo as Matador: Didn't you wear that outfit first challenge?" (Michael C)

Valerie is based her textile design on her father's blueprints, which fascinated her as a child. Michael C is referencing the evil eye bracelets he and his siblings wear, and incorporating black because the family is "dark and has issues." Gretchen is doing a squash blossom pattern based on her mother's jewelry and sunbonnet.

Details of April's print design.
April's print represents her parents' divorce.

Mondo grew up with secrets.

He says he came out to his mother at 17, and she told him not to tell the rest of the family. He finds it hard to open up to people, which explains a lot about his isolation at the beginning of the season.

Mondo's print is based on a plus sign for his HIV-positive status. Which he's kept a secret. For ten years. He feels guilt and shame. But he doesn't want to live as a coward.

Time out for some tears and some reflection. I'm worried that Mondo will be accused of being self-serving for revealing this on TV. This week for work I interviewed people being medically treated for opioid addiction. All of them had really wrestled with telling their stories on camera due to fear of stigma, and they were doing it to give back and help others. It was amazingly hard for them, and I know because I was looking them in the eyes as they did it. Mondo deserves a lot of respect for doing this and hopefully helping others who might be afraid to tell their families about HIV or other issues they are having.

Mondo doesn't tell the other designers about the significance of his design.

Tim's comes in to take them to Mood for supplemental materials. Their print fabric with be manufactured and delivered the next day, which is pretty amazing.

Andy says his print is based on "memory bubbles," whatever that means. Christopher's has to do with sapphires, San Francisco, and water. I think Sapphires and San Francisco would make a great title for a romance novel. Or a Disney movie with a talking cat (a snooty blue-eyed Siamese) and dog (counter-culture black Lab with a red bandanna).

Tim comes in to the workroom to say that he's about to bring in some special guests.

"Be nice to them - please."
There's speculation that it's eliminated contestants, or a client who won't like the print. The door slowly opens, and all the designers gasp and start crying. So it's either their families, or Sarah Jessica Parker.

After the commercial, we see it's their families.

"Holy macinoli, it's my mom!"
And it's Mondo's mom, Andy's mom, April's mom (who looks like an older sister - granted, April is only 21), Michael C's mother and adorable little son, and Christopher's partner of 10 years.

Gretchen's all alone. She says her mom has so many responsibilities that she doesn't get to see her very often, because she can't travel. She's worried that her mother won't be able to come.

And here she is. I'm not a Gretchen fan, but that was a mean trick to play on her.

All the families mix and mingle, and Tim comes back to announce that they have the rest of the day off to spend together. That's a Project Runway first, although I understand the Season 2 designers went for manicures during the Makeover Challenge.

We see each of the designers with their family members, all talking about stresses and how they feel about the competition. Two standout moments: Andy's mom worries that she didn't give her kids enough.

"You've given me everything."
And Mondo decides not to cloud his mother's first visit to New York by telling her about his HIV-positive status. It was also thoughtful to wait until the show is over and he can tell her in private before it airs. If he were a fame whore, he'd have done it in front of the cameras.

Back in the workroom, most of the designers have taken energy from the visits, but Andy is discombobulated. And it's Valerie's 29th birthday. She finds it bittersweet to be 29. I am compelled to snort.

Everyone loves their prints, except Andy.

Tim's Walkabout: He tells April to step away from the emotion behind the print and just look at her design as a garment, which helps her considerably. Michael C needs to make sure his look fits perfectly. Andy is thinking of making his pants into shorts, but he's unsure about everything.

Tim doesn't like the yoke on the back of Gretchen's pants; he thinks it looks like a flap.

I'm with Tim.
He tells Valerie not to try and cram too many construction techniques into a single garment, and advises Mondo to "go big."

Before Tim leaves the workroom, he notes that there are only seven designers left and chokes up, then sends the models in for fittings.

Both Andy and Christopher feel their garments look old. Andy cuts his pants into shorts, but it doesn't help.

Runway time! The judges are Michael, Nina ...

 ...and Rachel Roy, who has created clothing for Michelle Obama and Oprah.

I don't love this - the skirt is too busy with the print, and with the blocking of the single sleeve. If the skirt were simple, short, and somewhat full, it could have been the winner.
My rating: Top 3

Boring, ugly and strange. The shorts are somehow old-looking, the blouse is just boring, and I don't understand the vest? shrug? cell phone holster?
My rating: Bottom 3, and a candidate for the auf

There's a bit of a proportion problem here - the extreme high waist of the pants, combined with the bold print, is really unflattering in this photo. It wasn't so noticeable when the model was walking. Still, Mondo's signature mix of prints and cropped jacket are used beautifully again. 

My rating: Mondo's got the hat trick.

Valerie's look is nice when the model is walking, but when she stands still you can see the flaws. The blue underskirt isn't needed, and the fabric embellishments on the skirts should have been longer, so the fullness was nearer the hem than the hips.

My rating: Bottom 3

The top is OK, although the armholes are too low and there's some side-boob, something Gretchen has a recurring problem with.The pants are a strange mix of stretch fabric and crunchy suede details, and that back yoke is bizarre and unflattering.

My rating: Bottom 3

Michael C
Katspouse and I both liked this a lot. The cut-down shirt-front design is clever, and the mustard accents give the design added spark. 

My rating: Top 3

Old-lady denim pants with a cheap-looking visible back zipper, and a blouse you could probably buy anywhere. Why is Christopher always safe? 

My rating: Bottom 3, and auf if they apply the it's-worse-to-be-boring-than-bad judging corollary 

The HP fabric-design challenge is a cool idea, but the results have been disappointing two years in a row. I'm postulating that fabric designers have different skill-sets than clothing designers.

Judges: We're talking to all of you. Translation: We can't pick a Top 3.

Gretchen tells them about her sunbonnet inspiration. Heidi likes the print and the silhouettes. Michale likes the "earthy-disco" pants! He doesn't like the placement of the print on the top.

Michael: Too "fried egg on the boob"

Nina is disappointed, says it's "just fine." By "just" she means "merely," not "totally." Rachel Roy says it's an Almost.

The judges are split on Michael C's look - Michael hates the shirt-front motif; Heidi likes it. But everyone feels his styling is detrimental to the whole effect.

Christopher explains his California upbringing and his love of the water. Nina says that his look consists of perfectly fine clothes, but they aren't fashion. Word, Nina.  Christopher says that he thinks every outfit doesn't need to shout, and I think the judges may leap onto the runway and grab him by the throat. They point out that this is a design competition. Heidi says that she's not wearing jeans and a tee. Although, after seeing the belt she has on with her dress, it might be a better idea.

Really, Heidi?
Rachel Roy likes Andy's print, but finds the outfit "upsetting." Nina asks him what the problem was, and he says seeing his mother threw him off. The judges tell him the show must go on. Heidi calls it unwearable.

April says that her print represents her emotions she had when her parents divorced. Michael sees a great "push-an-pull" in her work. They all love the hide-and-reveal of the skirt, but not the poufiness.

Valerie tells the judges that her print was in honor of her father the home builder, and that her garment has architectural elements. Heidi says it looks the same as her Party Store napkin dress, and Valerie says it's somewhat reminiscent but the shapes are different.

Seeing them side-by-side, I agree with Valerie.
Unfortunately, the earlier garment was more flattering, so I think if this one had been closer, she wouldn't have been called out for it. Rachel likes it but thinks the underskirt is unnecessary and the fit is a bit sloppy.

Rachel Roy can guest judge any time - she's very knowledgeable and cogent.

Mondo talks about making collages for his mother, and says his print tells a story.

Nina, in a very cool top, wishes she knew what the story was.

Mondo is not prepared to say.
The judges find the outfit sharp and fashionable, and they laud Mondo's ability to mix prints. They also see the print as joyful. When the model takes off the jacket, Nina lets out a soft gasp of appreciation that I don't think has ever been heard from her before. Rachel says that the print is too perfect to be inspired by life - that no one's life is that perfect.

I know this is controversial; T-Bone of Blogging Project Runway (who is my blogger idol) has a very well-written post about it. I'm going to give the producers the benefit of the doubt, and say that if they did prompt this remark from Rachel, the motivation may have been to help people see Mondo as brave rather than self-serving.... he tells them all about his HIV status, and how it's been a secret for so long. As everyone takes it in (many welling up), Mondo struggles for composure and then smiles.

Backstage, the other designers express their feelings. Mondo says he hopes he has helped someone else who might be in the same situation.He felt that it was now or never.

"I feel a lot better. I feel free. 
Maybe I'll start being nicer."
 Back with the judges, Heidi asks Rachel which was the worst. Rachel says Andy's. Of course, Nina thinks Valerie's was worse. She calls it out as "something we've seen before," but that could easily be applied to April and Mondo. Then they talk about Christopher and how nothing he's done has been memorable. Which is true, but he gets away with it. I really think that good-looking people get a real pass with these judges. It might explain the Gretchen effect, since I understand she's very attractive in person.

When they talk about who they like, they mention Gretchen as the best stylist. April gets a lot of praise, although they mention that she always looks stricken on the runway. They talk about the joyfulness of his work in relation to this situation. And call all the designers back.

The verdict:

April is in.
The Winner

Mondo's not the first Project Runway designer to win three challenges - Jerell S5 and Irina S6 did.  Emilio in S7 won three in a row, but two were team wins, with Seth Aaron and Anthony respectively. Mondo is the first designer to win three challenges in a row individually. Bravo, Mondo!

April: "I'm so proud of you." As are we all.
Do yourself a favor and read Laura's blog on Mondo's revelation on the show.

Gretchen is in. Michael c is in. Christopher (?!?) is in.

Andy, Valerie one of you will be out.

Andy is in.

Sorry to see her go, but it was time. She began strong, but exhaustion and fraying confidence has eroded her work visibly each week.

When she goes backstage to say goodbye, she delivers a very sweet, heartfelt, well-thought out, articulate tribute to each of her fellow designers. I'm not going to recap it; you can see it on if you want.

My heartfelt tribute to Valerie: She is skilled, talented, and absolutely adorable. Let's send her off with some of my favorite expressions from previous eps.

Preview for next week: the scandal fiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally breaks. My prediction: The person thrown off the show is sent home for cheating, but for false accusation. And it's Ivy.

Checked out Valerie's decoy collection on Blogging Project Runway. She did quite well - most of her looks are interesting and wearable. Here's a sample:


  1. Awww - kathy, you are so sweet!

  2. Thanks for doing a commentary on the fashions. I don't want to minimize what Mondo did, but most of the other commentators went overboard showing how sympathetic they are.

    Also, I thought there were a lot of other areas to comment on, so here goes.

    I think the little moan Nina made was about the exquisite lining in the jacket.

    I have been getting more and more upset at the producers this year. Maybe it’s because of the additional half hour and being able to hear behind the scenes dish from Tim Gunn (until last week). I know that part of the ‘show’ part of ‘reality show is to push the participants far beyond normal, but they seemed a combination of sadistic and clueless. I think part of the reason for the overall loss of originality from almost everyone is because they went a bit too far. For a regular reality series that works, but I think the main reason most of us watch is to see people create, and it’s difficult to create if you are exhausted physically and mentally. It felt good when they were finally given half a day off. I still think it’s too little too late, and I think that’s why both Andy and (to a lesser extent) Valerie had such problems coming back. I also think it may be why we are seeing less growth with most of the designers
    Personally I think the designers need a few days off, maybe one day every three challenges. That ought to be enough to recharge batteries but also enough to keep the tension going.

    Speaking of the length of the show, I do enjoy the extra half hour because they are spending more time on the runway and the judging. In prior years I would run the runway part in slow motion so I could really see the looks. I have Tivo, so the extra ads don’t bother me, although I do stop to look at the interesting ads.

    For the first time this week I thought the regulars were giving out reasonable advice on how to improve. It may have been negative, but it looked like it was given in a truly supportive manner, which you can tell from the designers response.

    Also I think it’s a pity Heidi so clearly does not get Andy. I don’t think she’s liked anything of his. I think he deserves to be in the top three, even with his occasional blowout, but he might not make it because of Heidi.

    On the fabric challenge:
    Why do the designers use so little of their own fabric? I think part of it is that they really aren’t given a lot, but Mondo managed to make pants. I think they should get a LOT more fabric (maybe two designs if they want?). I would have loved to see a dress out of Andy’s or Chris’s fabrics. At least the fabric seemed a little nicer than last year when it looked like a thick cotton.

    Thanks for giving me some virtual space to ramble on in.