Project Runway Recap: The Top 7 in a Fabric Frenzy

I will hand it to Project Runway. They finally came up with a new challenge that wasn't just: "Make fashion out of some craaaazzzzy ingredients." (Vegetables, flowers, hardware, car parts, you know.) This time they got to do something truly fabulous and relevant...they got to design their own print.

Image courtesy Lifetime

Now, was this all an excuse for the longest, more repetitive product placement ad masquerading as very important challenge instructions? Why yes, yes it was. Project Runway (and often BlogHer) sponsor Hewlett Packard got some serious promotion of their touchscreen technology.

But here's my little piece of advice for Project Runway and HP: When they were showing the contestants actually using that technology, my viewing companion and I were pretty impressed. There may have been some audible oohs and ahs, particularly when they got out the paint brushes and used them as a drawing tool on the screen. But when everyone was uttering the product's talking points? Whether it was Tim Gunn or Vivienne Tam, I confess there was some eye rolling going on.

Bottom line: Show, don't tell. It looks way cooler than it sounds when being forced through the lips of some creatives like Tim and Vivienne.

OK, marketing consultant hat, OFF.

The designers had one hour to design their textiles, which then got sent off to be made into actual fabric by the next morning. Very cool.

They were then off to Mood to spend $100 in 20 minutes.

And once again: No frickin' dog.

It occurred to me that that dog was much like Janet Leigh in Psycho. They spent time introducing this character, showing it run about the store all cute-like. And then after making you care about the dog's life story, BAM, gone. The equivalent of 20 minutes into the movie. How can you ever feel safe again? Now, you know anyone is at risk! Even the little dog, too!

Hmm. I'm beginning to think I might be over-thinking the dog.

So, what did we learn in this episode?

-We learned that Emilio should trust his "viscera" (yes, the rest of us simply say "gut", but you know, he's Emilio.) Honey, when your viscera is telling you to junk a powder-blue leather corset? LISTEN.

-We learned that Anthony is like a beautiful fashion fairy who graces the workroom with his charm and laughter and magic. Yup, that would be called foreshadowing.

-We also learn that Anthony blames Beyonce for everything that goes wrong. Unlike half the stuff they show us between describing the challenge and the runway, I wanted to hear more about this theory. Surely Beyonce teaming up with Lady Gag could be a sign of the apocalypse. (No, I didn't misspell her name, I just really don't get the fascination.)

And after we get a workroom visit from Tim Gunn, we further learn:

-Emilio has apparently never watched the show, given he's taking the path of not listening to Tim!!

-Tim's mentoring advice for those who experience a block is to "unblock." That's why he makes the big bucks.

-Emilio's catty reference to Mila's "white teepee of a dress" was, um, pretty spot on.

Finally, it's time for the big show. This show is so big Tim tells the designers to use the Bluefly wall thoughtfully and strategically.

Vivienne Tam joins our regular crew, MagicallyPregnantHeidi, MK and ninagarcia.

As always, click on a designer's name to see their creation.

1. Seth Aaron

Seth Aaron has all the makings of a good, successful designer: consistency, a clear point of view, really good skills. The down side to that for a television show is that he's starting to be a bit boring. He always makes something looking a bit British, a bit mod, and this week was no exception. His print was a cartoon that he very intelligently basically obscured and abstracted by turning it on its side and repeating, until it really was a pattern without a recognizable cartoon face leering form every patch. The top half of his outfit was pretty wicked ... trim, riding-style jacket. Black blouse, bright yellow tie. The pants? Sorry, those were horrible. No one would look good in them. They made the rail-thin model look like she had fat thighs and cankles. Not just the shape and the weight of the fabric, but all the overattention to details. Zippers and grommets and studs. I thought the pants were a big mistake.

2. Jonathan

I'm not sure why the judges had such a problem with Jonathan's creation. His fabric design was the most creative. Every other fabric design was either stripes/lines or evocative of another's work: Emilio and Louis Vuitton, Seth Aaron and Roy Lichtenstein. Only Jonathan created something that was really his work. I thought the light dress with a sheer great neck and collar was lovely and springy. The interesting, front-to-back-with-wrap-tie jacket was different, and also pretty. Was the kick pleat in back a mistake? Absolutely. But Jonathan didn't deserve the drubbing he got!

3. Maya

Design by Maya Luz; image courtesy Lifetime

Maya created a textile of red and black lines, and used it to create side panels for a black mini-dress, with the stripes oriented horizontally. She did another one of her kelp/lizard ruffled necks, and continued with ruching down the black panel that was the center of the dress. I thought the dress was visually arresting, but I also think it looked a bit slutty. The big long exposed zipper down the back didn't make it seem any more sophisticated. The silhouette was very simple as well. I liked it, but I wouldn't say it blew me away.

4. Emilio

Emilio created a questionable black jacket over a dress in his textile. The jacket was questionable, because really, what was the point. It had short, puffy sleeves and a wrap waist. And it was fine, I guess, inoffensive. But nothing special. The halter dress underneath, featuring Emilio's blue-and-black, graffiti-inspired print, was too long, making the model look freakishly short-torsoed. The whole effect was certainly expressing a point of view, but I was a bit surprised by the over-the-top praise by the judges.

5. Mila

Wow. This was a train wreck. First, take a boring print design. Colored stripes, woo hoo! Then combine it with a long '70s-style "hostess gown," meaning a long but casual dress. Then, make it in this really stiff canvas fabric that is sort of like a sail, or a painter's canvas. Make it so stiff your model can't actually really walk in it. Then add an unnecessary and ugly brown shrug over the spaghetti-strapped un-walkable dress. Yeah, it was bad. Really bad. "Why is she still here?" bad.

6. Anthony

Anthony created a strong graphical purple-and-black textile ... and then used so little of it he barely lived up to the basic challenge. He sort of threw the baby out with the bathwater when he didn't like his original bodice, and that meant he was left with the kind of Forever 21 prom dress high school girls who think they're too sophisticated for full-length or taffeta will go for. It was too simple and too basic. Which is the kiss of death.

7. Jay

Everybody was a little too into lines and stripes with this textile print designing challenge, IMHO. Jay's were bright green and black. Everyone also continues to be too into black, which makes it hard to distinguish details of the design. Jay created black pants, and a black jacket featuring the print as its lining, up to and including the collar. There was also a black turtleneck, and over it a green/black waistcoat or something like that. I certainly liked it well enough; seemed like something people would actually wear. I just didn't think Jay created something surprising or entrancing.

In the end, the Judges liked:

Seth Aaron



And in a pretty average field, Emilio somehow took the win.

The judges did not like:




And although they were crueler about Mila ("A Mexican gay flag serape") and Jonathan (A "disco straitjacket" and "dirty tablecloth"), they auf'ed Anthony.

This fashion fairy of sweetness and light will be missed in the workroom!

So, what did you think?

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