ETV: Project Runway and Models of the Runway – Season 7 Finale Part 1

E: Can I get something off my chest?  Because there’s something about Project Runway that really, really bugs me.

Two words: decoy collections.

When the tents go up at Bryant Park, we’re only midway through the Project Runway season.  The producers would like to keep a little mystery going on.  Not only do they not want you to know who won, they don’t want the names of the finalists widely reported out here on the internet.  And so, there are the so called decoy collections.  What does that mean, at least as I know it?  The first season, it meant that Austin Scarlett got to show as well, although he was apparently too despondent to create a full collection, so it was very clear who was really a finalist.  The next second, fourth place finisher Kara Janx gave a show and blew away the press, which may have helped the judges put have 4 finalists straight through in Season 3 instead of 3. The judges were so underwhelmed by Michael Knight’s collection once they saw it that they now reserve the right to see the bits of the final collection before deciding who should show.  (Fine, I don’t know if that’s why, but it seems likely.)

Since season five, more and more designers get taken along as decoys. Guess how many people showed at Bryant Park this year?  10.  Not even the top ten finishers (out of 16), because Maya didn’t make a collection.  Yep.  10.  Almost every contestant on this season got to have a show at Bryant Park.  This is a little bit like George Bush and the

So when Jay and Mila cry about how important it is that they win the final challenge and be the one who goes to Bryant Park, I just cannot feel the drama.  It undermines the whole show for me. How can it mean anything if everyone gets to show?  I don’t know when people get told they’re going to show anyway – clearly the other 6 designers must have been told soon after their auffing or they wouldn’t have been able to complete collections – but still, it sucks the tension right out of the competition.  I think it has to stop. The prize should matter, damn it!

Project Runway

Small pet peeve; when will you fashion folk get over the use of the word bitch?  Now, okay. Maybe I just don’t personally embrace nastiness as a desirable quality. Or maybe I just don’t like the way female ambition and aggressiveness are immediately equated with bitchiness.  (Or the way that Or maybe I just want my kids, and my niece, to be able to watch the show without hearing that word.   Whatever the reason, there it is.  Jay, could you stop extolling the bitchiness of your clothes?  Can’t you just say they’re powerful?  Gah.  Okay.  Rant over.

In this week’s episode, Tim visits with the four designers and gives them a benefit of his attention and advice.  Then everyone arrives back in NYC ; Mila and Jay show the judges three looks to encapsulate their collections, and the judges will pick a third finalist from the two of them. In the presidential suite of a swank hotel, Jay and Mila talk for the first time ever.  And share a room.  But not that way.

Tim made his first visit to Seth Aaron, who lives in Vancouver (don’t get excited – Vancouver, Washington) in a cute little blue house with a red door and a “beware attack squirrel” sign.  He’s got a son and daughter, who look to be in their young teens, and a lovely relaxed looking wife and mom, and everyone is cool and excited.  (Seth is also desperate to move them to LA – and honestly, that does seem a better fit for his style and talents.)  They make Tim play win lose or draw, and jump on a trampoline.  Tim does not excel at these pursuits. He guessed Seth Aaron’s daughter’s stethescope to be fallopian tubes, and spends most of the trampoline time bouncing on his backside.  Awesome.

Also awesome?  The coats and jackets Seth Aaron has produced for his collection. Incredibly glorious.  The dresses are pretty great too. I am so in his corner. He intends to hit the tents with way more outfits than he needs and edit them down based on last minute feedback and the particular models he hires, so he’s already got more pieces than necessary.  Tim loves the gorgeous, sophisticated rocker pieces, but gives Seth Aaron some shocking advice. Get rid of most of it!  This will be a huge hit at Bryant Park, Tim says, and you will have people who don’t know your work on their feet – but if you don’t give the judges something they don’t expect, you will never win.


Seth Aaron is horrified, but sees the value of it. Out, out, damned zipper edging details!

Next, we have Emilio in the Bronx. We meet his two brothers, Felipe and Nicholas, and they all tell Tim about hard times growing up as the children of immigrants in NYC in the 70s and 80s.  Their parents worked as janitors and in factories to give them a better life. “Tim, it wasn’t easy!”  Emilio thinks he has a dirty, gritty, hip hop infused style, but he’s got a 40s inspired collection with turquoise, red, white, black and chartruse with some prints (including a crazy one which uses the graffiti writing of his name he used to win the print challenge).  I think some of it’s so matronly that several pieces look like choir robes. Tim thinks that a lot of the details (especially in the printed items) won’t play on the runway and also that they look old.  Emilio goes off about how he’s not making clothes for their effect on the runway (grr) and how the judges gave him a series of wins at the end of the season (grr). Tim tries to explain that winning challenges won’t win him the show, and that he needs to concentrate his time on what will.  Emilio is offended, and tells the camera that since Tim isn’t a woman he can’t critique women’s clothes.  Project Runway fans everywhere gasp collectively.

Mila lives in a cute little house, decorated in black and white, and a dalmation named Zippy.  How outstanding is that?  It’s so perfect it’s ridiculous. Her hair is longer, and less severe, and great.  Her collection is – shockingly – black and white mod, with touches of aubergine.  She’s so organized; she’s got an inspiration board, with sketches of each look and swatches and photos. Tim’s fear is that some of it looks matronly.  She’s horrified. The surprising thing is that I liked a lot of the pieces more than I’d have expected to.  Mila normally leaves me cold – I don’t love the mod thing – but some of the dresses are really terrific.  They look like maternity clothes, but I like some of them anyway.  Her parents and her boyfriend are pretty sweet, too. The shots of so called Goth Mila are an excellence only exceeded by her dad’s relief that at least she’s mixing white in with the black now.  Mila works in costuming for television and films, which is cool, but she’s longing to make her own things.  She feels like this is a chance to have her dream – the last chance.  Why do I feel like she’s Maya, 20 years on?

Jay lives in San Fransisco , which seems very fitting, and we get to meet his boyfriend and his super supportive Philipino family and see them cook a tremendous looking feast.  It’s funny. I don’t particularly like him, but he seems so sincerely emotional about his family, and they believe in him so much, it lulls me into liking him a bit more. Especially when he cries and says he wants to support his parents and give them a better life, because they’ve worked so hard to give him this chance. I also like his crazy coat with the long train, and I like his whole idea of the samurai meets geisha/ hard meet soft. It’s a great inspiration, and he’s concentrating on color (smart when you’re going head to head with Mila) and innovation, and is using these gorgeous thick wools.  Tim points out that the clothes have to be wearable.  Where do you wear the cool long coat with the petaled tail?  Jay doesn’t know.  I’d ask Gwen Stefani- I don’t think you can wear that to the Oscars, you have to wear it on stage at a concert.  Which makes it a costume, which is problematic.  But where would you where Christian Siriano’s clothes?  Anyhow, Jay’s got other pieces with foofy straps for sleeves that Tim fears is just “student work” – innovation for the sake of innovation.  “What is this?” he wants to know.  Student work.  Gimmicky.  Jay Nicolas wants to vomit.  It’s cuckoo Chanel, he hopes. The  thought of competing with Mila makes him laugh.

Mila and Jay each show a three piece, capsule collection to woo the judges.  Brandise – now sporting a Mila bob (dubiously flattering) – wears a tweed coat which gives the effect of charcoal, with black detailing, over a short dress with panels of stripes, a large houndstooth, and plain black.  Like the coat, don’t love the dress, don’t hate it. Then we have a girl who seems very familiar to me (Shannon from Bravo’s Make Me a Supermodel?) wearing another black and white coat, one I like less.  We don’t see what’s under it.  There are cool leggings or skinny pants below, though, and a funky scarf thing above. Finally Holly, the winner of Make Me A Supermodel, comes out in a flapper style dress with large mother of pearl sequins (large enough to be like scales), with patent leather strips in center of the top leading to a collar. There are short black leathery gloves that end at the wrist, and some sort of metal strapping built into them. It’s incredibly cool.

Jay starts with an extremely short dress in a deep purple with a zipper up the middle and pleating detail to add volume to the hips.  There might be pockets in there, I don’t know.  There are also short black gloves. Next he has pants with a studding detail up the side of the calves, a metallic turtleneck (rather space age looking) with an odd black bolero or shrug over the shoulders. Brittany’s look is a gray jacket with a ridiculous collar that goes up to her nose.  It’s got big pleated or ruffly pockets. The jacket hits just below the crotch, which is where the dress hit, too.  There are slim fitting crimson pants underneath, and he’s added these strappy studded “leg guard” accessory things on her calves.  His models all wear long wrapped ponytails.

On the runway, the judges are a bit stumped.  Everything is beautifully made. They dress Mila down for being black and white and expected, if impeccable.  They love her jewelry and her gloves, and Heidi would wear all of her pieces.  They hate the styling, though, and wish the girls looked rougher, edgier with hair and make up. Is it okay to be retro with a twist, as she is, or better to be entirely innovative, like Jay?  While listening to their critique, I can’t help thinking of Tim’s words to Seth Aaron. He was right on target.  The judges who’ve seen you all season want to see something surprising.  Michael says it straight out – it’s hard to make something that’s clearly you, but still contains the unexpected.  Nina wonders if Mila could make 6 collections a year.  Do most designers make that many?  Really?  Jay is as usual uneven, but exciting and new.  They love his pants (as usual) and strappy leg guards (gaiters?), but are iffy about his jacket and the confusing shirt/shrug combo. Heidi loves the dress (how does she even know it’s a dress?  It’s the same length as the jacket.  Is it just because it has a zipper?)  but thinks the jacket is overdesigned. They all think he needs editing.  Michael wants to edit him right there, and send him through.  So I was completely stunned to see them put Mila through, even though before the judges’ comments I thought she was a shoo-in.

Models of the Runway

So here it is again – Lorena gets all misty about how she’s going to miss sharing the experience of going to Bryant Park with her bff Brittany, and Brittany tells Heidi she’s the only one who’s never gone, and it’s so sad, but things happen for a reason (God, but I hate that expression) and maybe she’ll get to go someday.  You know, like this coming Thursday.

When Mila chats with the models after the elimination, she tells Brandise, Kristina and Lorena that there couldn’t be anyone better in the finals.  The camera helpfully zeroes in on Brittany’s face, since she’s standing 6 inches away when Mila says it.  It occurs to me that Mila has actually worked with all three of those girls multiple times each – twice with Kristina, twice with Lorena and the bulk of the season with her biggest fan, Brandise.  So much as it wasn’t all that nice to say right in front of Brittany, I think she probably really meant it.

And what a blessing to have Brandise around!  The woman is a rare and marvelous misanthrope.  If she was in Jay’s position, she tells us, she’d be thinking of the many ways she could kill herself (and tells us a few, just to illustrate).  When asked whether she dislikes Brittany, her response is no – she just generally prefers animals to people.  When she sees Emilio’s collection, she recoils in horror because he’s got all sorts of colors going on – pink, orange, my God!  Is he desperate?  What’s wrong with him?  Later we see her moving in with Lorena to consolidate rooms (where’s Kristina staying, then? isn’t that a far more natural pairing?) and she tells us she’s going to give Lorena a much needed dose of humility.  Which, wow.  Lovely.  I’m glad we didn’t actually see that.  Lorena, on the other hand, tosses a few barbs around and tries to get Brandise to apologize for being mean to Brittany.  It’s clear Lorena sees herself as a protector of the weak and a truth speaker, but a lot of her truth telling seems to unnecessarily spoil the mood. Later the girls have a random dinner with Cerri, Valeria and Alexis, and Lorena provokes dissent again.  Is Lorena trying to be straight with Cerri (who, by the way, called Lorena’s actions pathetic, but not Lorena herself – there’s a distinction, people) or is she just a passive aggressive provocateur?  I suppose the best evidence for thinking that she’s not trying to be a nudge is that she didn’t go after obvious target Alexis.

While Kristina and Brandise adore their designers collections, Lorena is having trouble being as effusive in her praise.  It’s not quite her personal taste, she says.  Their wins were so collaborative that she’s now going to feel a bit responsible if he can’t get there on his own.  If he fails, she says, it will be her failure, too.  That’s interesting, but I don’t know if she has enough time to make a difference.

Next week, we get the reunion show. Bah. For what might be the first time ever, the models are included.  And are the judges normally all there?  Wow.  That’s pretty cool.  Looked super weepy to me, though – all “you said this about me, you meanie”, wah wah wah.  Will we get some cheese to go with the whine?   Bah. You’d know what I’d like to hear them talk about?  I’ll tell you.  Do the judges still think they did the right thing by giving Emilio a pass for his pink string and washer bikini , after seeing on the show that he lied about choosing to do a bikini rather than a dress?  I hope someone asks that question.  On the other hand, we see for sure that Maya will get to explain herself face to face with the judges, which is nice.  And I am curious to know why Emilio dropped Holly, after putting her on stage naked in that metallic monstrosity.  That was very clearly the point where he lost my sympathy.


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