E: Thank God this season of Project Runway is almost over. Can I get an Amen? We’ve pared things down to the only really interesting contestants (well, that is to say, the best three contestants who didn’t get ridiculously knocked out super early) and that’s nice. They’re all as deserving as anyone got. But I’m so looking forward to the return to NYC in season 7! Bravo is rerunning Season 4, flaunting Chris, Christian, Rami and Jillian in our faces. Ah, the glory days – where have they gone, where diiiiiiid zay go? (Points for the musical reference. To someone not related to me.) I’m also scrubbing my eyeballs after seeing Tim dance behind the screen. Wrong wronggetty wrong wrong wrong! The models, meanwhile, are as chipper as ever. Do you suppose the producers wept the day that drama queens Fatma and Vanessa went home? I don’t mind, though – it’s a weird and rare pleasure to see reality show contestants behaving so well. Spoilers, of course.
Project Runway: Our three ladies are sent home with $9,000 (up from 8 – nice) and a few months complete 12 piece collections for Fashion Week at Bryant Park – this time, though, it’s the January Fashion Week. The last few seasons, it was September. Anyhoo, this week’s ep consists of Tim visiting the remaining contestants at home (during which we get a tiny snap shot of who they are as people, a look at their families, friends, boyfriends, and pets) and then several days worth of preparation in NYC.
First up, Carol Hannah! Having relocated from Charleston to the quite impressive Huntington NY home of a friend, Tim has to “bare knuckle” drive through a few inches of snow to meet her. Carol Hannah’s collection was inspired by a night time tour of Duke University – its ethereal architecture inspired a fairy tale, whimsical collection which includes not only her signature gowns but also separates of all stripes. (Except that, of course, there are no stripes. And it all seems to be done in evening fabrics.) There’s a fanciful, conical gray cocktail length gown that’s really intriguing. It’s also probably the lightest thing we see. Tim likes, although he’s very clear with her about his least favorite items, baldly telling her to get rid of some garments or accessories. Her family has flown in to meet Mr. Gunn, and after he views her collection, they teach him how to make biscuits and treat him to a real southern meal. Adorable. We also get to see self-described gawky pictures of the designer as a child. Carol Hannah’s Dad cries with pride over his little girl. Out on the Tim kisses her cheek and tells her he loves her. Aw!
Next we have Irina, who lives on the Upper East Side (surprise!) and has a small fluffy dog named Princess (surprise!). I’m not entirely sure how a creative person could live with that kind of cliche. Also, I wonder how she can afford an apartment there? What does she do, I wonder? At any rate, her collection – all black or gray, even darker than Carol Hannah’s – brings less enthusiasm out of Tim. She’s got some stunning hand knits – seriously impressive sweaters, one of which had a fascinating basketweave section in the back – but the rest? There’s a jagged looking fur vest (shades of the infamous Scandinavian rabbit) and some printed jersey she wants to turn into a – boyfriend t-shirt? Lux Irina wants to use oversized t-shirts? Really? Her inspiration was Coney Island, her favorite place as a child. Now, this is surprisingly low rent for her, and also, don’t they have colors on Coney Island? She takes him to dinner with her effusive, loving mother, and her cold Russian father. Irina and her sister are supposed to achieve what her parents could not, since they left their home in Georgia (former Soviet Republic, not the American South) for freedom in Brooklyn. Although, I don’t know, they looked pretty slickly dressed to me, and there’s still that question of how she can afford her apartment. By the way, all the pictures of her as a child are black and white, so it looks as if she’s just time traveled a half century. Translation: Irina is all about the American Dream, y’all, and if she wins Project Runway, maybe Daddy will believe in fashion as a career. What would he prefer, I wonder?
Althea works in a highly industrial site in Dayton Ohio. It’s like a squatter’s apartment in Rent, and Tim shudders in the elevator. Althea has been inspired by science fiction movies (which I love, but um, oh dear) and the powerful women in them. Damn, but I wish she’d elaborated! You’d think this would make her clothes really out there, but not at all. His reaction to her collection is – mixed. He cautions her against being costume-y, though we don’t see much that qualifies as that. Actually, I’m sure some of it was good – there was that stunning knit (hand made by Althea – they didn’t say if Irina hired hers out or not) – but mostly, we see stuff Tim considers fussy and matronly, including a gown which he deems Edwardian in the Wild West (what, that’s a bad thing?) and a pantsuit which is “almost Hilary.” Oh, poor poor Hilary. You remember you’re on Lifetime now, right, Tim? Aren’t you playing in Hilary country now? Anyway, we meet Althea’s much less complicated family and her John Krasinski-cute boyfriend. That’s unexpected. I’d have paired her with someone more obviously hip and less earnest looking. I wouldn’t have guessed we have the same (visual) taste in men.
And that’s it for the first portion of the show.
Althea and Irina show up at the swank Runway apartment or suite, to find that not only do they have nothing to say to one another, but that relief will NOT arrive in the form of Carol Hannah, who has a highly contagious stomach virus. You can see the war of sympathy with competitive excitement; oddly enough, concern seems to be most genuinely coming from Irina. Apparently she can imagine how sucky it would be to have your body wracked with debilitating cramps during the most important event of your professional life. But little Carol Hannah has drive, and drags herself off her sick bed the next day. Hurrah!
The ladies are given a new, blue work room so reminiscent of Parsons (even though it isn’t) that it makes me pretty sad. Also sad – everyone’s dark, dark palette. Althea points out to Irina that hey, they once again have big cardigans in common. Irina expects credit for all the chunky cardigans in the world. Shouldn’t have opened that door, Althea! Tim checks on their progress, and he’s perhaps more than usually forceful about his opinions, tossing out a sheer sparkling cardigan of Althea’s (matronly!) and a foofy ruffly sleeveless ‘jacket’ of Carol Hannah’s (girl, it’s not a jacket, it’s a vest. And no, Tim didn’t say that, I did).
So, they cast models pretty quickly, with no Jillian-esque drama. In an actually surprising twist and Runway first, Michael and Nina (together again!) show up in the workroom to dispense tips. The judges want originality and personality to shine through. Pacing of looks is important. The camera focuses on Irina’s face when Nina says that an all black collection is hard to editorialize. Irina gets huffy in confessional, translating Nina’s remark into “all black collections are bad”, which, hello, don’t you remember Christian, Irina? That’s not what she’s saying. Irina doesn’t care. Not like she could do anything about it now, anyway. But it’s striking me that none of the designers have watched the show before, because when Heidi shows up with Tim and tells them that they need to create a thirteenth look, no one seems to know it’s coming. Or maybe it’s just disbelief that anyone thinks they have enough time to make something comparable to the looks they’ve been working on for months.
But don’t fear! In another not so shocking twist, Gordana, Christopher and Logan are brought in to help. Althea gets first pick, and chooses – Logan? Really? Poor Carol Hannah. Irina of course picks her buddy Gordana, leaving Carol Hannah with Christopher, which, really, isn’t so bad, right? And then – I’m getting nostalgic again – they get to visit the real Mood! And meet Swatch the dog! Awesome.
Less awesome? Carol Hannah starts puking again. And in the scenes from next week, we don’t see her at the tent (editing to create mystery or not?) and we hear Tim declare, ominously, “I am about to lose it!” Yikes!
Models of the Runway: Lisa, Tanisha and Kalyn – who will now be known as the “muse” models – get to pick the model for the thirteenth look. Well, that’s waaay more interesting than anything they’ve done on this show before. “I’ve never been a casting director before,” Lisa tells us, which – duh. It must have been fascinating to be on the other side. Althea asks Tanisha for “another you” (which, intriguingly, Tanisha is kind of annoyed by) – curvy with a great walk and lots of attitude. Carol Hannah wants someone really tall, willowy, fairy-like, and with long hair, preferably blonde. Irina’s thinking about a tall blonde, too, but really wants someone with Kalyn’s cheery, perky personality. They’re all happy with their picks, except for Lisa, who’s first choice isn’t available. Why bother going to a casting when you’re not available? What’s the point of that? She still manages to find an even taller, super ethereal looking girl with long blond hair whom Carol Hannah loves.
Then the model’s families arrive, so they can be on hand for Bryant Park. Most of them have never seen their daughters walk in a show, so everyone’s thrilled about it. Lisa’s mother is tall, blond, young looking and gorgeous. Kalyn is an exact replica of her mother, except her mom has a shorter, edgy asymmetrical bob. It’s almost alarming. They’ve the same dimples, the same super perky smile, the same everything. Clone city. Tanisha’s parents look more like regular people, but her brother’s good looking and they’re all smartly dressed. Everyone goes out to dinner at a restaurant named Amalia (where, if memory serves, Michael Slezak filmed the Idolatry interviews with his favorite American Idol contestants) and everyone gets along really well. Nice, decent people on reality shows? People with manners who know how to behave themselves? No!
And that’s it. Bring on Bryant Park, and may the best designer (cough, Carol Hannah, cough cough) win!