Envious And Relieved

Sarah Jessica Parker's history making appearance!

 Who got their socks (or stockings) knocked off this week? What would I have done if I were at Parsons and SJP sauntered into the work room? I may have dirtied my knickers at all of the Steve & Barry stores across the country. Even the judges faded in the spotlight. This was a landmark of sorts in Project Runway history, a landmark which made me envious and yet relieved as I was perched contentedly on La Rive Gauche, happily observing the challenge with a glass of red wine, and yes, much empathy.

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The most striking piece I see immediately is Victoria's. I am so pleased she is on the show representing a completely unique and abstract equation of fashion design and conceptual art. Her style is needless of explanation and unnecessary to define, it beckons Yohji Yamamoto & Rei Kawakubo. The ensemble is deceivingly simple, but in actuality, quite deep. Like a piece of fine art, it is incredibly difficult to create such a perfect balance of harmony & chaos, the chaos lying subtly in the A-symmetry of the dress. I can visualize passing many different women in NYC wearing either the dress or the vest..(and did you notice SJP was wearing a little vest of her own?)
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Upon recalling the other ensembles, the only one that really "bit" me was Ricky's red dress which slipped through the judges' grips of merit. I found the detailing and construction to be flawless & strong (for the 3 seconds of runway time we have to appreciate it)..but where was the second piece? I noticed a belt cinching the waist, but I didn't see an accompanying garment to the mandatory two piece look...maybe that's why the judges weren't intrigued enough.
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Christian, one of my favorite looks from episode 1, created something similar to what we saw last week as his "signature look" (the jacket), paired with a more demure blue knit dress. The silhouette looked too fierce for Bitten, and the color choices were a tad 80s reminiscent, but his creation had soul, strength & personality. He should have been safe, it's absurd he was in the bottom. I could see SJP wincing over the deliberation and pitied her situation. It must be incredibly difficult to pick & choose the best & worst designers, based upon a sketch and a $15 budget. I fear whether the judges would have chosen Victoria's fashion forward piece as the winner had SJP not been present..My gut instinct is that they would have chosen the frumpy spat-upon capelet and jersey dress and over-looked the significance of Victoria's outfit.

rate_runway_07_402.jpgI cried for Marion and understand all too well the feeling of not having enough time to prove yourself and your talent. But I trust he will find the experience to be one of worth and rare exposure..and I loved what he was wearing, the white leathery-looking coat. He's got talent & style and it will take him far.

Until next week,
au revoir.

Finale, Part 2

Impressive work by all but alas only one designer can win.

Well, for me, this episode was the Project Runway first among Project Runway firsts! Why? Because I served as a judge for the first time (and, hopefully, the last time) ever. Here's the back story: Bravo and the executive producers approached me before our Bryant Park show to say that there may be a problem with our guest judge and, consequently, how would I feel about filling in. At first, my response was a roll-up-your-sleeves and "make it work!" form of positive thinking, but as I contemplated the reality of it, I pushed back and refused. Consider the following: I still had another visit to the designers that night and there would be a considerable amount of time needed to support them in the morning before the show. How could I be both a mentor and a judge and service their needs appropriately and responsibly? I believed that I couldn't. So, to make a very long story a wee bit shorter, we ended Thursday night's bevy of phone calls in the following way: Bravo and the producers would ardently search for a replacement judge and I would return to my work with the designers assuming that I would not be a judge If I were to be needed in that role, then I wouldn't be informed of that need mere moments before the show. Otherwise, I could be perceived by the designers (and anyone else mind you) as being duplicitous and insincere. That would never do. Furthermore, Kenley and I were engaged in an semi-incendiary relationship, and the worst thing that could happen would be for her to lose and have me perceived as being the reason why. Oy! So, we know what happened: Our guest judge backed out at the last minute, a celebrity replacement couldn't be found on such short notice, and I filled in. With 10 minutes and counting until our show, Heidi came to me and asked, "So, you're ready to do this, no?" I replied, "To be honest, I don't know. I have an altogether different relationship with the designers than you and Nina and Michael have. I don't know." Heidi reared back and asked, "Tim Gunn, are you telling me that with all of your years of teaching you can't put your relationships aside and look at their work impartially? I thought about her wise words and responded, "Of course I can! Let's go!" We hugged and kissed and off we went.

Don't ever wish to be a guest judge on the show! To be blunt, I don't know how the judges do what they do and as well as they do: The collections pass by quickly, you have to wrap your brain around each piece of each collection immediately, and you have to come to terms with some comparative assessment right away. AND, I had the distinct advantage of intimately knowing the designers' work, yet is was still daunting. In any case, it really was very, very difficult. And there was one very important dimension to this process: seeing the clothes walk. Generally speaking, I don't see them walk. Rather, I see everything static on dress forms. Walking is an altogether different experience and it brings everything to life. So, in that sense, my experience with each designer's collection couldn't have been fresher and newer.

Here are my thoughts about the three collections: Leanne WINS, and what a win it was! We saw all of the conceptual content that really is at the core of Leanne's point of view, and we saw it tempered and orchestrated with precision. As I said to her during the home visit: "I always trust that you will present masterful technique, but can you give your work feeling, emotion?" This was her personal challenge. And she did it All of the strong architectural elements that are Leanne were clearly present, but her looks possessed a buoyancy and an ease, an effortlessness that belied each items structure. Furthermore, her collection was the result of superb editing; had she not brought her critical eye and judgment to each looks and its relationship to every other look, then there may have been a different outcome. Kenley presented a strong point of view and excellent execution, neither of which were surprises, and both of which were appropriately lauded.

I loved Kenley's textile choices and her hand-painting, which was a risky endeavor, and the silhouettes couldn't have been more her. But when the looks walked, they possessed a stiffness that I wasn't prepared to experience. Static on a dress forms, her looks beautifully captured the essence of her inspiration: "painting the roses red" from Alice in Wonderland. (When I made my home visit to her, Kenley resisted revealing her inspiration, which confounded me. When she finally relented, she gave me an epiphany. "Now I get it!" I declared.) But when the clothes walked on the runway, they retained much of their static appearance; that is, most of the looks moved like stiff pasteboard. I could see Kenley's collection emanating a major "wow!" factor in an editorial spread in Elle, but I had a hard time imagining how they would or could navigate and function in the real world. Still, I loved the fantasy aspect of the collection and its other-worldliness. Korto fully embraced her African heritage and her Americanism. Furthermore, she was successful embracing that goal, which is no small task, especially since the entire collection could have been a costume festival. Her silhouettes, alone, told her story, and when you add the colors, textures, and jewelry, her entire collection was uplifted. Color is nothing if not subjective, and I applaud her decision to step away from the expected and mix up her largely taupe palette with vibrant greens and blues. And the jewelry? Well, from my perspective it was all inextricable from the larger aspect of her point of view and, more particularly, to the individual looks themselves. I loved it. Is her collection for everyone or anyone? Of course not, but whose is?

Congratulations to all!