E: NYC, what is it about you? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I couldn’t be happier to be back. There’s nothing wrong with LA, but it’s not Runway’s true home. NYC has Nina! And Michael! And Central Park! And Parsons! And the real Mood, even if we didn’t get to see it this week! And pregnant Heidi! Even the hipster designers are giddy with their good fortune. That’s kind of hilarious, actually.
This week’s challenge? Remember how we opened season 4, with bolts of Mood fabrics lined up outside? That’s the task again – use any fabric you like to make something representative of your style. The only twist, such as it was, was forcing the designers to throw their fabrics to the ground (yuck) and pick only five to take back to Parsons. Was I the only one horrified at seeing so much gorgeous silk and chiffon down in the dirt? At any rate, the 16 designers – 8 men, 8 women – creating with varying degrees of success one outfit to represent themselves.
In a mostly randomized order, here are the designers, with my thoughts on their creations and also their models, who we met in the also new Models of the Runway. While the producers didn’t take my advice and show any more footage of the models in the workroom, they did make a stab at making you not want to stab your eyes out while watching that show. Now the judges critique the models as well as the clothes – although not, as far as I can tell, in front of the designers, which might have ratcheted up the tension in model selection. I suppose that’s still better than nothing.
And without further ado, we have:
Emilio, a bilingual New Yorker and the winner of the first challenge. Construction skills are key, and his bought him this victory; he created stripes out of a print, by cutting out circles and stitching them to strips of two different fabrics and then applying them to a fitted bodice with a single asymmetrically strapped back. The short full skirt was created out of the circle print with insets of the strip background fabric spiking into it. It was my favorite by a mile. That doesn’t happen that often! I was thrilled. His model – horsey Holly – was also judged the best of the week.
This week’s runner up was the resident crazy, a physical therapist (and Italian trained fashion designer) named Ping. Ping likes to hang her fabric on her own body. She doesn’t use dress forms. She’s all about comfort and movement. She’s utterly unlike everyone else there, and the judges ate her up – especially guest judge Nicole Ritchie, who wanted to buy the harem pants, turban, shawl and loose tunic right off model Elizaveta’s back. Young, timid, round faced Elizaveta (who looks like an Eastern European milk maid) was forced to dance on the runway by a giggly Ping, and was not a judges favorite. She couldn’t own the goofy dancing.
Rounding out the top three we have Seth Allen, a Simon LeBon wanna be with overly gelled rock-black hair and eyeliner. (I refuse to call it by that other name.) He looks – vain, but also like he’s lived hard. Emilio’s older and yet much younger looking. He created a look he called “Little Tokyo” – a short grey plaid dress with suspenders, a ruffly hem, an exposed red zipper and an amazing strappy back. The judges think his model Kristina’s styling is perfect. Really very cute – cutesy edgy, which makes it pretty Japanese, which makes me feel like he knows what he’s doing and who his buyer is. He wants to be a house hold name, though, and that’s a lot less cute.
Next up of the rest is Ben, a comic book artist whose portfolio shows his fascination with sleek costumes. He talks about armor, but it’s not the pictures we see, which are more about bright colors and spandex or vinyl. In a mostly good way, if that’s possible. He puts his model Sophia (a jaded 25 year old who’s not – wait for it – there to make friends with the other girls in the model apartment) in a shimmery red/gold retro dress with futuristic 80s puff sleeves. Possibly my least favorite look of the week, certainly a contender for that dubious honor. Clearly the judges thought better of it than I.
On the other hand there’s our other bilingual New Yorker, fresh faced young Jesus, who makes a gown out of pebbly brown leather that the judges loathe. He claims couture is his metier, but this gown bore no relation to the voluminous, gossamer looks of his portfolio. His biggest mistake? Turning a short gown into a long one, and leaving a thick ugly seam at the model’s knees. Tim tutted about it in the workroom, and Jesus – excited by the extreme height of his brown haired amazon of a model, Brittany, says it doesn’t bother him. Heidi is most assuredly bothered by it, she calls him on it, and he almost gets cut.
The next starry eyed pretty young thing is recent RSDI grad Anna. She looks farm fresh, but has a clear sharp mind and articulates her ideas precisely (I’m an artist working in a fabric medium). She produces a sweet pale gold halter dress, which I quite liked. I wanted to get a better look at it than I did. She’s a print maker by education and I’d be fascinated to see if that ever comes into play. Her blond model Cerri may or may not be the Aussie who tells off one of the designers in the season promo. Anyway, she’s in the middle.
Our next middle dweller is Jesse, who works as an “actor” – which is to say, he plays Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney World. Wow. He got used to sewing costumes while working in theater. His portfolio looks are soft and romantic and ruffly. His runway look is a structured plaid off the shoulder zip up suit with a tomato orange off the should blouse. It’s cool enough, and beautifully tailored to fit his model Megan, but I’m struggling to think of a situation where one would wear an off the shoulder suit.
Jonathan, whose portfolio boasts similarly soft designs, produces a more goth-meets-art-deco runway look for his model Brandise, a short black dress with strong geometric detailing down the front. Brandise’s 32, with short black hair, and has this world weary “been there, done that” attitude that suits Jonathan’s ideas perfectly. I think he’s the one with his own slogan; he wants to “turn gritty into pretty”. Righto. I have yet to be convinced. He is safe, which is fine for now.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to chuckle a bit a resident weeper Janeane, who teared up at the thought of going to Bryant Park. I say this with affection; I’m not offended by her slightly overwrought earnestness. I think it’s kind of endearing. As long as she’s not going to pull a Ricky and cry every week, we should be cool. I also liked her portfolio, which ran to the tailored architectural. She works herself into a corner making a little black dress out of a bad material. After Tim points out that it shows every construction flaw, she scraps it with 2 hours left and pulls out a very cute, gently folded beige skirt and a floaty (but somehow still a bit structured) black top. I’m interested to see what else she can do. Safe.
Pamela Ptak – the only person whose last name I remember (or bothered to write down) is a former marketing exec looking for a new challenge. Her portfolio looks – hmm. She likes to show her seams and use texture. She puts her model Sarah into a hot pink dress with a short full skirt and wing sleeves which turn out to be a sort of cape over an essentially open back. Interesting, though the color is quite a bit to deal with. Safe.
Mila is 7 years younger than Pamela but looks 10 years older. She’s got that “edgy” haircut which was really popular with school girls in the fifties – you know, the straight bangs with the bob. She’s a would be Uli; her runway look is short skirt, plaid sleeveless top, and a swing jacket with one print on the outside and a contrasting one on the inside. I’d say this for it, it’s marginally more wearable than Jesse’s, and the jacket moved really well. Or maybe Alexis just walks well? Either way, they seem like generally work appropriate separates (despite the too short skirt). Safe.
Betty Boop punk Maya got her fine arts training in Boston, and that makes me want to like her from the start. She favors tailored, structured, architectural pieces, which doesn’t make her stand out from this crowd; she designs super cool handbags, though. One of them looks like a mace. I was underwhelmed by the beige sheath dress with beige and rust asymmetrical shoulder ruffles she clothed model Monique in, but her portfolio makes me more hopeful. She and Mila bond on a hair-style level. Speaking hair, Monique is easily recognizable by her caramel colored afro. Safe.
Iranian Amy takes a black and white harlequin print and makes a bubble skirt that’s at once ethereal and structured. That’s a cool trick. She pairs it with a white pleated bustier which I’d have like more without the feathery details on only one boob. I hate that, really I do. Her model is Valencia – another blond who might be the outspoken Australian – and her portfolio shows lots of ruffled circle motifs in a kind of mod-meets-Assyrian aesthetic.
Jay Nicoloas makes rosettes, like Angela from season 3, remember her? – only on steroids. I don’t mind the ones on the side half so much as the one on the model Kasey’s tummy. That I thought was pretty atrocious. Otherwise, I really like his pleated, tailored skirt and top. And I don’t have much to say, other than that Kasey strikes me as the prettiest of the models so far.
The queen of the season is Anthony (“it’s hard to be black and gay in the ghet-to”) who hails from the south and wants to design pageant gowns (but not for Miss America). He’s funny in that stereotypical queeny way, but I’m not sure it really comes from an organic place. Anyhow, he makes a sort of garden party dress with a strong print, mismatched boobs (possibly because one started off a different color?), and a really weird set of folds on one hip. It lands him in the bottom three. His model is Allison, who looks uncannily like Alexis but with longer and blonder hair; she’s filmed jamming on her guitar (I’m pretty sure it’s her, but her hair is back so it’s a little confusing) and the song trails out over the next scene. I googled the lyrics and nothing came up. Does this mean she wrote that song? She’s got a Regina Spektor like sound, and I liked it a lot. I would totally download that song if anyone were to release it on itunes. Com’on, Bravo! Get on it!
Finally, we have Christiane (“I’m good,” she tells the camera, telegraphing her poor showing) a California designer whose work has begun to show up on red carpets. She’s from the Ivory Coast, and the color sense of the African nation informs her aesthetic. She pairs a brilliant blue solid with a blue, white and yellow print to make a cocktail dress. The idea was to have the print weave in and out of the blue, and it works only some of the time; if she was a better constructionist, this might have worked out, but her draping can’t compare to Rami the king of columns, and (much to Mila’s disgust) she doesn’t even know how to hem. She gets the fast ticket home, and since – inexplicably – all the designers are keeping their original models, Kelly goes home. I scoffed at her fear – how much loyalty could the designers have after one challenge? – but it turned out to be justified. (This is not a permanent condition, according to the season promos, but for now, there are no changes.) Ah well, ladies. It had to be someone.
And there it is! I’m desperately hoping for more original challenges, but I feel hopeful about this bunch. I’m excited to see more from them. What about you?