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.

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Tim Responds To Your Comments!

Thoughts and explanations about this season of Project Runway.

Tim I love you! But I have the same question ... why is Kenley still there?? -Yaz
Oh, Yaz, I know, I know. Although she can be terribly annoying, Kenley is indisputably talented as a designer. Regrettably, for her, she seems incapable of listening to any feedback without assuming that it's an attack on her character. Had she attended a design school (she's self-taught), then the critique process that she would have experienced would have either killed her or cured her.

I want to put in an official question to Tim...Ever since season one, all he's wanted is the best for his designers. He's given them all the help that he can, and I think of him as such a kind, sweet man. I used to be a Kenley fan (every season has its "Attitude" member...Wendy, Santino, Jeffrey, Christian...) but I've never seen anyone be so completely rude to Tim - who does nothing but help her!!! Tim, how did you react to this rudeness? Was it difficult to keep on giving her constructive feedback? - Charlotte Bailey
Charlotte, years of teaching (29 to be specific) have given me resources to draw upon and bucket-loads of patience, but there are some individuals who test even my arsenal of diagnostic measures and metaphorical prescriptions. Kenley is certainly one of them. I feel like you do; That is, I'm only trying to help her. But I have a refrain that's appropriate for these circumstances: I can't want you to succeed more than you do. And in the end, it's important to take the high road and not let these individuals know to what extent they're pushing your buttons. Furthermore, and drawing upon my teaching experiences, again, I know that I hold the power in these circumstances, and there is absolutely no need to abuse it. Ever.

Sometimes I'm shocked by the judges' picks. They have picked a few items that no one I know would ever wear! What do they base their choices on? - Debbie
Oh, Debbie! I wish you could be with me in the literal and metaphorical darkness of the Parsons auditorium as I watch the judges' deliberations! Like you, it's infrequently that I can anticipate the judges' decisions. Who's going home? Who's out? Beats me. When the designers' looks on the runway are well executed, then the decisions become a matter of taste. What are Heidi's, Nina's, and Michael's proclivities on any given judging day? I can't begin to answer that question. Chacun a son gout.

There were comments that there are several options to the traditional jacket/skirt suit for interviews. Anyone have appropriate ideas for more creative business wear? I wish they would have elaborated on that comment! - Melissa
Melissa, you're right; there should have been some examples given. Whenever I talk about a woman's alternative to stuffy menswear tailoring, I cite Donna Karan, who redefined executive dressing for women going back to the mid-'80s. It was Donna who took those basic pieces - jackets, skirts and pants - and made them sophisticated and, yes, sexy. She achieved the latter by showing off the curves that women possess, not by trying to obfuscate them under boxy separates. There is no reason for a woman, under any circumstances, to dress like a man.

What exactly is the point of this 4 designer showdown? I mean, come on, what was the point of last night's show anyway if the judges couldn't make up their minds and boot off the least deserving designer? - Amelia
Um..., uh...it's this flavor of question that gets me in big trouble because I agree with you! I feel that it's unkind and even mean spirited to victimize one of the designers, because the judges were unable to render a verdict at an earlier time. If they can't decide, then they should accept responsibility for their indecision and allow four designers to present at Bryant Park.

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