I am thrilled to be starting the fourth season of Project Runway.
Unlike opening challenges in seasons past where the contestants are pushed to their creative threshold by having to work with either the clothes off their back or food products, this season we really gave the designers the chance to present us with a garment that expressed who they are or their personal point of view.
With $50,000.00 worth of Mood fabric at their disposals, I had high expectations of what I was going to see on the runway. In the first episode I was really looking for the designers to show me who they were in one look. I wanted to be able to read where they were coming from, where they currently were and where they wanted to go. Some did an excellent job executing their point of view, while others fell short and were underwhelming.
It is amazing to watch the episodes after taping "Project Runway" because contrary to what viewers may think, the judges are removed from the day to day designer interactions and thus we are left solely to judge the contestants based on their designs and their designs only.
It always shocks me when I see the background, attitudes or personalities, for example Wendy Pepper. However, that said, we (the judges) are really judging from an unbiased position.
When Christian's look came down the runway I instantly understood where he was coming from, clearly an admirer of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. I could easily identify his aesthetic and also thought he conveyed his particular interest in tailoring with an avant garde twist but at the same time being wearable.
Rami's clean, feminine, sophisticated look was a successful first impression of his understanding of the woman form. The Grecian inspired-gown showed Rami's gifted execution of draping and his understanding of elegance.
Ricky has an interesting advantage over everyone else because he comes from a specified background-lingerie. A great strength for him moving forward is his ability to understand work detail and be able to have a keen understanding of the feminine form. He really has the potential to bring some refreshing ideas to the show. Think of the way that Dolce and Gabbana incorporate lingerie into their ready to wear.
Victoria really reminded me of a young Vera Wang. Her black off-the-shoulder dress with brocade flower was very simple yet chic and romantic. The first person voted off is always the most difficult because we really have not had the chance to see that designer's full potential. That is the case with Simone, who was voted off. She failed to meet the objectives of the challenge and show a distinct point of view, which is what the judges and I needed in order for her to stay in the competition.
When we eliminate someone there is always a hope that they could have done something wonderful. Looking back on the first episode and seeing Simone's struggle with the time allocated to the challenge, (one that should have been simple for any seasoned designer) it is clear Simone would have had difficulty throughout the competition as the challenges are only going to get more difficult from here on out. Even though Elisa's look was poorly executed she, unlike Simone, had a point of view. Elisa has been a fixture in the industry and has a lot of underground success, so when I saw her look come down the runway, I was a little bit more critical. Although watching the episode, I was impressed that she used herself as a fit model and managed to construct the entire dress with one seam, her long, winded, esoteric explanation of her design put me over the edge!
When a dress is hanging at Bergdorf Goodman, it does not come with an explanation! It speaks for itself. During a break from the judging there is a barrier between the contestants and the judges and no interaction. After my critique of Elisa, she came off of the stage and approached me with this intense gaze. The entire room was froze because no one had any idea what her intentions were (season 2 contestant Santino Rice approached me during a deliberation and got very heated to the point that the producers needed to intervene).
Elisa came up to me and the spiritual woman that she is only wanted to comment on the conversation that she overheard Heidi and I have about breastfeeding ( I just had my first baby in March).
The first episode is just an introduction of what exciting things are to come! Let me tell you it will only get more difficult from here and it will be interesting to see who will thrive under pressure and who will crumble! See you next week.
Project Runway Judge andElle magazine Fashion Director