Eye Candy

Field trips + untraditional materials= stress!


I love our field trips, and I love it when we use untraditional materials, but I'll confess that both always give me an exacerbated level of stress. Heidi introduces this challenge by merely informing the designers that they will have an early start. Indeed, they do. I arrive at their apartments before the crack of dawn. Rousing them, I declare that they are to get dressed and meet me in the lobby. We're going on a field trip!

The ten designers and I pile into the Project Runway van and head northeast towards Times Square. We park a block from our destination, which is unknown to them, and take a little walk. Eventually, we land at the Hershey's Time's Square emporium, a literal Hershey's lovers dream come true. The designers are clearly excited, but it's apparent and they're equally daunted by the speculative prospect for this challenge. tim_406_02_320x240.jpg

We meet Hershey's Michelle Gloeckler who tells them that anything and everything in the store is available to them. Furthermore, there's no budget for this challenge. Rather, the designers are given two shopping bags each and five minutes to amass their materials. To their relief, the design challenge is open: create an outfit of your choice. Whew.

There is no additional shopping, even for notions. Glue, glue guns, staplers, other adhesives, and needles and thread are being provided, so the additional resources are an even playing field. They will have until midnight to finish their look, because there will be almost no time available to them the following morning.

The always thoughtful, always insightful, and always dead-on Zac Posen is our guest judge. Hurray! rate_runway_10_406.jpg

Rami wins! And he is the first designer this season to win two challenges. Using York Peppermint Patty paper* for a pleated skirt and vinyl Twizzler pillow cases for an innovatively constructed top, he created a look that was simultaneously edgy, fashion forward, and wearable (i.e. believable). His look was superbly constructed and the fit on his model Sam was perfection. What more is there to say? Congratulations, Rami! rate_runway_09_406.jpg

Elisa is OUT. To me, this outcome was inevitable. Elisa listens to two inner voices (at least two...) that operate from opposing positions: that is, one tells her to be fantastically innovative and avant-garde while the other deludes her into thinking that she successfully attains that goal. When I engage with her, I listen seriously and respectfully, but I find that the words she speaks and the work that I'm looking at don't jibe.

For this challenge, she used her daughter as her muse and sought to achieve an outfit suitable for Gretel of "Hansel and Gretel." She said that she wanted a "fashion confection of fairytale fantasy." Okay, but what does a stale brown velvet dress have to do with that? I won't even comment on those ludicrous faux sleeves made out of the Hershey's Kiss pillows. Ho-hum. If Elisa's design had been as interesting as her words portrayed, then she'd have been the winner. rate_runway_08_406.jpg

Chris knew only too well that this challenge would either make him or break him. As a costume designer extraordinaire, Chris is more than adept at using untraditional materials, such as food. But were he to go the way of the food circus, then he would have delivered a parade float to the judges, and we know where that would have led. In his own apt words, this design was "Stephen Sprouse meets Andy Warhol." I loved his strapless mini-dress with "Hershey's" emblazoned and repeated vertically from the bust-line to the hip: very Warholesque, indeed. The look was clean, beautifully fitted, and his model Marcia looked sublime. Furthermore, it was a strong contender for the win. Chris, I'm proud of you! rate_runway_01_406.jpg

Christian, I suspect, will have a polarizing effect on our viewers. I write this largely out of projection, because I alternate between wanting to give him a big hug and wanting to give him a sobering slap. In a manner that evoked the discovery of penicillin, he believed that the material he chose (hundreds of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers), coupled with his design (a mini-dress with a halter and choker), would ensure his win.

Furthermore, he was "finished" hours before the deadline. When I found him in the workroom gloating over his achievement and offering spare-time critiques to his fellow designers, I pulled him aside to suggest that he consider giving his design some more time and thought. "I certainly don't think that you're going home (and he won the last challenge, so he had immunity), but I'm not as confident as you are that this design is the winner." If looks could really kill, I would have been a goner. rate_runway_05_406.jpg

Jillian was the only designer to construct an entire garment out of edible materials. I supported her intentions from the onset, but I was also bluntly concerned about time; that is, her design was extremely ambitious to execute. I, too, found the Twizzler's to be an inspirational material: substantive, pliable, and a rich color.

But merely handling the Twizzler's was a challenge, because the heat from her hands caused the dense pillars of candy to turn squishy. Oh dear. The consequence was that gluing would not be an option. Instead, each individual piece would have to be sewn onto an infrastructure. Time. I know that Jillian was writing her own epitaph, but in the end she made it work. Her flapperish mini and Valkyrian bustier were stunning, and all the more so for being made of candy. For me, this would have ensured her win. But for our judges, it was a matter of taste - forgive the pun. rate_runway_04_406.jpg

Kevin's design was nothing if not wearable. He created a cropped bolero jacket out of the chocolate velvet of the Hershey's pillows and used ROLOs for buttons. A corset-shaped halter top in silver (from Kiss pillows) was over a chocolate pencil skirt. His use of a silver ruffle under the hem of the skirt struck me as being a bit contrived and trying to hard, but it passed successfully through the judges' review in the first round. Go Kevin! rate_runway_02_406.jpg

Kit took advantage of the opportunity to spin her name and used Kit Kat wrappers to make a corset with oversized chocolate-colored lacing in the back. This was paired with a flared and pleated skirt made out of the wrappers from extra-large Hershey's bars. The impact was powerful, but a bit busy, if not cacophonous. Furthermore, styling the look with knee-high boots on the runway cancelled out any hope that the look would be buoyant or joyful. Instead, it was heavy-handed. Kit, edit! rate_runway_03_406.jpg

Ricky nailed this challenge and, remarkably, with little to no consternation. His look was adorable: a bubble skirt (I know, I know, but it was fun in this case) fashioned out of "Hershey's" fabric paired with a silver bustier-shaped top with spaghetti straps. The judges responded well, too, by virtue of the fact that Ricky was "IN" in the first round. I believe that this may be the first challenge in which Ricky wasn't left hanging on the runway. Congratulations! rate_runway_07_406.jpg

Sweet P was almost completely derailed by this challenge. Was it a consequence of over thinking her design and being too innovative with the materials? Perhaps, but the earlier stage of her work presented an impossible mess. I was in complete agreement that she abort and begin anew. The trouble was that she had made such a mess of so much of her material resources that they couldn't be recycled into phase II, so there were severe limitations ahead.

This was a classic "make it work" moment. I was proud - and relieved - that she was able to create a garment that looked believable and could walk the runway. Yes, it was a basic look - a silver bodice and pleated miniskirt made out of Hershey's Kiss paper* -- but at least she had a look! Michael and Nina were especially critical of her look's banality, but if they could walk a mile in our shoes! rate_runway_06_406.jpg

Victorya created a look that can be best described as a homely costume. Not unlike Elisa, Victorya can listen to inner voices that delude and, consequently, derail her. Her decision to use the fabric of York Peppermint Patty pillows for her design was compelling, because the shiny silver textile and the bold graphic print had a certain "wow!" factor. So why did she decide to use the flat, lifeless reverse of the textile for most of the garment? This begged the question: then why use it at all? And the design?

Victorya's work is characterized by a sleek minimalism, so what accounted for the ruffled top and multi-tiered girly skirt? To make matters even more incongruous, Victorya called the look "Ice Princess" and instructed her model Jacqueline to walk like Venus Rising. This was a puzzling head-scratcher. Victorya, as far as I'm concerned, you're lucky to still be IN.

* The Hershey's Kiss and York Peppermint Patty papers were rolls of stock from the Time's Square store that had been intended for display purposes. Hershey's kindly offered them to us, and the papers were a godsend to many of the designers.

What's Next

Words of advice to Leanne, Korto, and Kenley.

Leanne put together something that was interesting and sophisticated and it definitely had a point of view. In a weird way she managed to have a focused collection that still had variety. She took an idea and she stretched it. The clothes were young as well as sophisticated at the same time.

What's next for her? Well, everyone thinks that they have to put on this big runway show and that's not necessarily always the case. I think her clothes are very much about seeing the workmanship, the detailing and all that, so I definitely think she's got the goods to do her own thing. I don't think she should feel obliged to do a big show right away. I think there's something to be said about things growing slowly and organically and that might be better for her. Then people can really see the clothes up close, because when you put the kind of workmanship into something that's understated, things can get lost. She could do a fun presentation, maybe, or a still life on mannequins. I don't think she necessarily has to rush out and put on a whole show. I think her clothes will be appreciated in both Europe and Japan so she should probably think about bringing it over her line to Paris where you're going to find more of the European buyers as well as the Asian buyers. Once again, I think her clothes will do really well in Asia. I think they have an understanding of sophisticated workmanship. You're not going to see her clothes in the local mall. They're not for that. She's got to keep it high-end and sophisticated and keep her focus, which I think she will.As for Korto's collection. I remember the beads well. There was one asymmetrical dress where the beads were built in and I loved that. Everything she wanted her collection to be - ethnic without being costume-y, playful with color - she managed to hit that with certain parts of the collection. But I think the necklaces, when they were just necklaces on their own, looked added.

With Kenley the reality is you have to have a confidence in what you do and you have to believe that you're right. A designer needs a big ego because you really are going around and telling people "You're wrong and I'm right." But I think that there are ways to do it gracefully. It's the kind of industry where you're always going to have good feedback, bad feedback, or sometimes no reaction, whether it's the woman in a store, the buyer, or the press. It's always a public thing, not a private thing. The important thing to remember is as much as it might burn you when someone criticizes you, the real reality is you don't have to take it totally verbatim. I think she takes things totally verbatim. And one can listen and say, "I got what you're saying but I'm ultimately going to do what I want to do, thanks for the input" and maybe you will learn something. You should learn something. When you think you know it all at 25 then your career's going to be really short. The whole point of fashion is that you never know it all. She's gotta learn how to keep her point-of-view and her confidence, but learn how to be a little more of a lady. Granted, being tough never hurt anyone in fashion.She's obviously got a point-of-view. She's got a great hand. The painting on those clothes was just gorgeous. In general, the quality and the craftsmanship of everything she sent out was beautiful. But I think when people are dress designers, which is really what she is, it doesn't make for the most compelling fashion show. It might make a very nice line. I think that in history there have been a lot of designers who are "dress houses," so to speak. They don't do a whole collection and they can have very successful businesses. It's hard to tell a varied story when you are so specifically dress-oriented and especially when your look is so particular. So I think she could put a line together and do very well with it. There's always going to be someone who likes something feminine and flirty and she's another one where I don't necessarily think the runway is always going to be her best friend. I think the greatest thing that has happened from the show in the last five seasons is that it's certainly made people aware that their clothes don't just appear in their closet. It's kind of like knowing the farmer who grows the crop. Suddenly you have an appreciation for the food that's on your table. I think that Runway has really opened people's eyes to know that this is an incredibly difficult endeavor and it takes real tenacity and talent.

I think that's the greatest part of the show for me. I'm a real fashion person so when something turns the corner and I think it's really spectacular that's the greatest moment for me. When Christian's show started and I saw the chicness of this 3-Musketeers silhouettes I thought "Wow." Same thing with Leanne. I look at the whole thing lined up and I think this is what we're here for. I'm happy when it looks great. My other highlight is sometimes just losing it laughing. Whether it's the wrestling challenge or... just losing it laughing in general! As much as I love it all and we are excited about it and spend so much time doing it, at the end of they day, they are just clothes. And sometimes it's good to just laugh about it all.