Friday, November 16, 2007

Project Runway: Finally back, and making it work!

In fashion, you're either in, or you're out. And I'm in, all the way. (Okay, not so much with fashion. But definitely with Project Runway.) I've been waiting for this season premiere for what seems like forever! (And forever isn't that far off, actually...this season has been a long time coming.) So let's skip the pleasantries, and get right down to business!

We meet Rami first. He's originally Israeli, and has designed for Jessica Alba on the red carpet, but is still looking to find a larger audience. Next up is Chris, a flamboyant costume designer. (In this case, though it's a tough call, flamboyant refers more to the costumes than to the designer.) Christian, who possesses what I like to refer to as a "side mullet," is a recent grad who studied in London. Carmen, who's sporting a rather asymmetrical hairstyle herself, used to model, which she feels gives her an intrinsic understanding of the business. I wonder if she'll still do that thing where designers say they loved "watching [their] dress walk down the runway," rather than "the model wearing [their] dress." Seems like if you've actually been a model, you'd be less likely to totally ignore their existence.

Our next designer is Jillian, who has been working at Ralph Lauren. And is "Not. Going. Home." Kevin, a successful jeans designer (they have jeans on the cover of Victoria's Secret catalogs?), wants to get back into making collections. Steven works at the Museum of Science and Industry, sewing for various exhibits. Fascinating! And yet, somehow, I'm kind of doubting he'll get much respect from the other designers. Poor Steven. Elisa, an "accidental fashion designer," got into fashion while making marionettes. Seriously. Like, giant, terrifying, monstrous ones. And her bio is so impressive that it makes one wonder a) why she needs Project Runway, and b) whether it's even fair to the other contestants to have her on the show. Project Runway has officially gone pro, y'all. Olympics-style.

We don't hear much from Marion, whom the screen titles tell us is a boutique owner. Is it an ugly hat boutique? Because if so, he's doing a great job advertising it! Ricky, clearly a customer at Marion's boutique, is a lingerie designer whom we also don't get to meet. I'm assuming he vowed to try out for Project Runway and do lingerie designers proud the day Santino unleashed his ruffly German monstrosities upon the world. "Sweet P," whose nickname comes from her time in an all-girl motorcycle club, needs some money to keep her business afloat. She has matching "Sweet P" and "Mean P" tattoos. Hells yeah.

And now there's no more time to meet the rest of the designers, because we (and they) are on our way to Bryant Park! Simone, who is very taken with her "vision," is thrilled to be in Bryant Park: Home of Fashion Week. The designers pop open some bubbly and toast to their good fortune. Aah, and it now becomes clear that Marion owns a flower shop, not an ugly hat shop. He simply sells designs (possibly including ugly hats) out of the shop as well. Jack, an activewear designer, is thrilled to finally be designing for himself, and not an employer. Victorya considers herself a competitive overachiever, but stops short of saying she's there to win, not to make friends. Kit "Pistol" designs really funky clothes, and would love to have her own line. Ricky, for whom ugly hats unfortunately seem to be a trademark, tears up over the enormity of the opportunity.

Now that we've met the designers, it's time for Heidi and Tim's long-awaited return to television! (Yes, I'm graciously ignoring Tim Gunn's Guide to Style. Deal with it.) Heidi looks just as beautiful as always as she reminds the designers of what prizes are at stake. Oddly, Tim thanks her gratefully for saying nothing but "next to me is Tim Gunn." Maybe merely having your name spoken by Heidi's beautiful lips is an honor worth thanking her for? He reminds the contestants that they were selected from a huge pool of designers, which only makes me miss "Road to the Runway" more. Sigh. He gives them the usual "you are the strongest group ever" speech (which very well may be true, given the resumes), and Heidi drops the completely expected first challenge bomb.

This year, the first challenge is NOT to create an outfit using unconventional materials, according to Tim. But I'm assuming he was joking (he's so deadpan it's hard to tell!), because their challenge is to turn cheap white tents into outfits that express who they are as a designer. But wait! The tents are lined with $15,000 worth of premium fabrics! This is actually kind of interesting. I like that they're shaking it up a little, and letting us see what the designers can really do. Though I have to say, it's a little less interesting than corn husk and coffee filter dresses. As the obligatory Race for Materials begins, Elisa wishes Heidi a happy birthday and hands her a flower. Suck up. Chris, who is a bit tubby, doesn't make it to the tents until the fabrics are pretty well picked-over. Happily, his choices are still available. To everyone's bemusement, Elisa takes a fancy silk chiffon and rubs it all over the grass, "imbuing it with a natural element." Riiight.

At Parsons, everyone gets down to business (but not before Tim leaves them with his inaugural "Make it work!"). The lack of constraints is intimidating to some designers, but Ricky gets right to work with a lingerie-themed babydoll dress. Elisa, who is officially this season's kook, starts sewing her "mythical, magic gown" right on her body, using herself as a dress form. You know, if she didn't have such an impressive background, I'd be very skeptical at this point. As it stands, I'm just somewhat amused. Christian, out-gaying even his side mullet, interviews that Elisa reminds him of a rain goddess in the Himalayas, or something.

With four hours to go, Tim pays the designers a visit. Rami, clearly one to watch, has managed to freestyle drape an amazing gown that Tim pronounces "stunning." Christian, on the other hand, has made the ugliest thing in the whole wide world. Possibly due to the hideous black and tan fabric he's chosen. Tim, perhaps blinded by the hideousness, chooses to criticize the asymmetry, which...dude. That is SO the least of this outfit's problems. Simone has chosen to pair peach, white, and bright yellow. And is also falling a bit behind. Elisa's dress, already finished, is very high-concept, with a colorful, deconstructed train flowing from a very fitted body. Tim expresses some reservations with the finishing of the train, which is totally raggedy, but Elisa decides to nap rather than compromise her concept, even though she's got plenty of time left. Everyone else, of course, runs around frantically down to the last minute.

The next morning, it's Judgment Day, as Jack puts it. Many designers have work left to do, but first it's Model Time! Measuring, hair styling,, and dress-finishing ensues. Simone actually has to sew her model into her dress, because she didn't have time to put in a zipper. Elisa has her model practice walking with the train, and it gets completely tangled at her feet. Elisa feels like she should probably chop it right off, but doesn't do it. I'm guessing that may end up being a bad call. Just a hunch.

At the runway, the designers get another speech from Heidi on the prizes and judges--the guest judge is "acclaimed designer" Monique Lhuillier. The first outfit is Elisa's, and the model, of course, gets tangled in the dress. DUH, Elisa. Chris's dress is very classy, but a bit boring. Kevin's is enormously fabulous, if you ask me. Cute, edgy, and well-constructed. I'm going to peg him as another one to watch. Sweet P's looks like an ill-fitted gunnysack to me, but that could just be a matter of taste. Simone's dress is so simple that I can't believe she didn't have time to sew in a zipper. Simple, and fairly ugly. Definitely NOT expensive-looking.

Jillian's dress looks fairly chic, but turns me off for some reason. Christian's is just as ugly as I remembered, but looks a lot more high-fashion on a model. Victorya's dress is stylish and fun, though it has a big ugly metallic flower in the front that just throws the whole thing off. Rami's dress is just as impressive on a model, and looks very sophisticated. Ricky's dress is way too simple and trendy-looking, like something you could buy at the mall. Also, too shiny. Jack's dress is super-cute, and I absolutely love it.

is unusual, but probably really high-fashion in a way I don't get. Steven's is very "sexy executive," which...okay. Interesting choice. Carmen's is a horrifying combination of an '80's-style gold lamé vest, big flowy genie pants, an out-of-place orange scarf thing, and too many accessories. Carmen, oblivious to my hatred, is thrilled with her creation and completely confident that she'll make it to the next challenge. Kit's dress is fantastic, and pulls off a similar cute/edgy aesthetic to Kevin's (and in a similar color palette).

Heidi moves Chris, Kevin, Sweet P, Jillian, Jack, Marion, Steve, Carmen, and Kit to the next round. What?! Three of my four favorites were in that group! Kevin, Jack and Kit: You were robbed! (Sweet P: You were very, very lucky.) Apparently, Christian is in the top. Sigh. Though to be fair, it really does look better on a model. Simone, clearly, is NOT in the top. The judges are unimpressed with the construction and with the jacket/dress combo. They absolutely love Rami's dress, of course. Ricky's dress gets criticized for being too safe and boring, which is completely fair.

Victorya's dress gets praise, as does the horrible metallic flower. SIGH. Michael points out the short hemline, but then points out that he knows women who are willing to bleed for fashion, so... Okay, what? Fashion is so messed up! Isn't he the same guy who once said that all the women he knows cut the pockets out of their pants to make themselves look thinner? What is with his female friends?! Moving on to Elisa, she describes the cut as "haiku," which, what? Nina criticizes the heaviness of the train, the fact that the dress isn't walkable, and the big, clashing boots. (Okay, just kidding. I'm the only one criticizing the boots. But it needed to be said!) The judges seem to like the dress, but not the train.

In deliberation, the judges are torn between Christian and Rami, though they also really like Victorya's design--especially that stupid flower. Simone gets the harshest criticism, though Heidi says what I've been thinking all episode: Elisa's model "looked like she was pooing fabric." HA! Ricky's dress gets praise for being well-made (as did Elisa's), but the judges can't get over how boring it was. This seems like a pretty clear choice to me, as far as the loser. And the winner too, actually, when given these choices. Victorya is in, but Rami wins. Right on. Christian is also in, of course, as is Ricky. Okay, between Simone and Elisa? This is no contest! Simone is out, out, out. And rightfully so.

And there you have it--the first episode of what will hopefully be a fantastic season of my favorite reality show! Can't wait for next week!