‘Project Runway’: A close call

August 26th, 2010

If you go to http://www.mylifetime.com/ and click on the box that reads “Make Your Style Roiworld,” you can play with the designers’ creations in dressing the illustrated figure, above. In this case I used Gretchen Jones’s jacket and skirt. I don’t know whose top that was. The bag is from Piperlime, which is supplying all the accessories this season. It’s one way for the designers to get accustomed to these mash-ups. Few can afford buying collections, so the normal person just throws assorted designers, different seasons’ merchandise, together.

In my print story today, I promised to recap the “Project Runway” episodes for those who miss the progress of Hawaii contenders Ivy Higa and Andy South. It turned out to be pretty intense tonight with both ending up on the losing team. (Read what Andy has to say about the competition on the bottom of this piece.)

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. After they had drawn up sides, their team, Team Luxe, actually had the most first-place winners this season, four in four episodes. Team Military and Lace had no wins.

Also on Team Luxe were Gretchen, A.J., Michael C. and Christopher. On Team Military and Lace were April (not bound to last), Valerie (overrated by judges), Mondo, Casanova, Peach and Michael D. (one of my faves this season).

Andy and Gretchen pick fabrics.

Tim Gunn showed them boards filled with style and fabric/color options comprising key trends for fall 2010. They were to pick one style and one fabric/color to build a six-piece collection. Team Luxe opted for menswear and camel as their color choice. The other team’s name reflected its choices.

Already, I felt Team Luxe had gone wrong by picking camel; paired with menswear it would be hard to make exciting. I love menswear for women. It can be strong and sexy, classic and beautiful, but it would have to be impeccable and luxe to work. Otherwise, it could easily enter matron pantsuit territory. Judges on the show also tend to favor the dramatic, so I would have gone with bolder choices, like military and leopard or gold, so already, Team Military & Lace had an advantage.

Gretchen, a winner of two episodes, took charge. A lot of the designers on the show don’t care for Gretchen’s bossiness and condescension, but the woman is talented, and hails from one of my favorite creative cities, Portland, Ore. (Let’s not forget Season 5 winner Leanne Marshall is also from Portland.)

I can understand not wanting to be dragged down in a team competition. The business of fashion may take a group effort, but a design vision at their level is individualistic, so the team challenges are dreaded. No one likes to lose due to a weak link, and they had two in A.J. (no taste) and Michael C. (can barely sew).

Andy and Ivy are front and center of Team Luxe.

Ivy, Michael C., Gretchen and Casanova figured prominently in the storyline, which is not necessarily a good sign. It means you’re either going to win or go home, and I didn’t have a good feeling about Team Luxe’s direction. I was scared for Ivy because Michael C. had immunity from last week’s challenge, and with two wins to her credit, I was pretty certain Gretchen wasn’t going home, which left only Ivy and A.J.

Like Jay Sario last season, Andy isn’t getting much air time because he generally ends up in the middle of the pack and works quietly.

Team Luxe did put out a good team effort. Whereas the designers from Team M&L took an individual approach to designing their own garments within the context of their theme, Team Luxe assigned duties based on who was the best at creating pants, jackets, etc.

Casanova won the challenge with this design for Team Military & Lace.

Although the judges thought Team M&L’s collection was the more cohesive, I didn’t think it was cohesive at all, but some individual pieces were beautiful, striking, wearable and on trend.

Team Luxe’s collection was cohesisve, but in a way that conjured images of “Maude” and “The Golden Girls.” Not good in an industry that peddles the sexy and desirable. Judges criticized them for having no sex appeal, no design and awkward proportions.

The way they worked, too, with everyone working on elements of the design, it was hard for the judges to pinpoint the weakest link. In the end, they each indicated the pieces they made, and A.J. was sent home for making only one piece, an oddly proportioned shirt dress.


In the end, Tim Gunn had some harsh words for Gretchen and Team Luxe, saying they should not have let her boss them around at the expense of their own individuality. Huh? How do you create a cohesive collection with everyone going in their separate direction? I think they could have asserted themselves any time, but did try to work together as a team. They just needed more of a “wow” factor.

Ivy’s design.

Andy is credited on the Lifetime Web site with this design, but he only made the skirt and top, and a jacket worn by Michael C.’s model. It was tough to judge the Team Luxe designers individually, because they contributed their talents where needed, on 21 pieces, not expecting to be on the bottom.

Gretchen and Andy determine the best hair look for the collection, opting for old Hollywood glamour.

Note: The following was added Aug. 27:

Going into the competition, Andy said he wasn’t nervous, in a phone call this morning, but he had misgivings the day of the competition because they were working so close to deadline, they didn’t have much time to style the garments and he wasn’t able to see how they all worked together. When he did see it, he said, “I thought my model looked like a school teacher. If I had seen her before, I would have done something about it.”

He felt his team was overconfident in approaching the challenge. “We knew we had people with technical skills, so we got ahead of ourselves. It was kind of pretentious.”

At the time, he thought of it as a team affirmation and found the excitement infectious, even though it was “so not me,” he said. “I can feel confident in what I do, but I would never say, ‘I’m going to win.’ I took note of that and that made me more determined to be true to who I am, no matter what. Anyone could have gone home, and if I had to go home, I would want to go home for something I love and can stand behind.”

I asked him if he thought it was fair that Gretchen got called out, and he said at the time it was a surprise to the rest of the team “but we really didn’t see the other dynamic. Tim is able to watch all the videos and things going on between the designers.”

At the time, he said they all felt their role was to be team players and he said his fellow teammates are nice people, so were perfectly willing to allow Gretchen to take the leadership role and go along with her decisions.

Gretchen and Ivy are being depicted as baddies in a series that needs to inject drama into the labor by casting a villain. It’s kind of funny that I asked Ivy about that possibility before the series started airing, knowing she’s a strong, smart, capable woman who suffers no fools, and that often registers as “biatch” to the rest of the world.

I was just talking to someone else who knows her, saying how she’s so nice, but if you extract only the aspects of her personality that’s confident in her talent, and allows her to speak directly and speak her mind, that might put viewers off. Just remember “Project Runway” is, like all good television, a dramatic narrative—this one in the guise of “reality.”

Coincidentally, Fall/Winter 2010 celebrates strong women, who Jil Sander believes will commandeer the world by 2030. Good times.

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One Response to “‘Project Runway’: A close call”

  1. olivia:

    A friend of mine linked me to your blog and I really enjoyed reading it.

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