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Project Runway Season 10: Off to Times Square

Welcome to the tenth regular season of Project Runway.  After the experiments of All-Stars, with a new host, a new mentor, and new judges, the tenth season brings back the old crowd:  Heidi, Tim, Michael, and Nina.  Unfortunately, it also brings back the hour and a half running time, which will doubtless be filled with endless shots of people sewing and/or sniping at each other.  We get enough of that even when the show’s just an hour long.  Trust me.

Before the show proper starts, though, there’s an hour-long Road to the Runway, which introduces us to this season’s crop of contestants and shows how they were cast.  Zanna Roberts Rossi did the hosting duties, and several previous contestants helped judge the auditions.  Among these were Nick Verreos from Season 2, Seth Aaron Henderson from Season 7, and Mondo Guerra, fresh from his victory in All-Stars.

There will be 16 designers this times, which means nobody will be rudely dumped at the last minute via a last-minute auditioning process.  Gunnar Deatherage, 22, had fallen victim to such a process at the start of Season 9, after inflicting a hideous pink dress on the judges and the viewers.  He vows to redeem himself this season.  Andrea Katz, 58, is this year’s senior season and is trying to put her life back together after losing her business and even her home to the bad economy.  Buffi Jashanmal, 32, was born in London, but raised in Dubai.  She likes to use bright colors and metallics in her work.

Dmitry Sholokhov, 33, hails from Belarus and used to be a model.  Kooan Kosuke, 30, is Japanese– and wears an afro.  If he’s not this season’s kook, I’ll be surprised.  Ven Budhu, 28, was born in Guyana and came to the U.S. when he was 4.  As a child, he liked to draw the gowns worn by Belle in Beauty and the Beast.  Lantie Foster, 48, had a father who wanted her to go to law school– and cut her off when she opted to go to art school.  If she sticks around, we’ll probably hear more about this.

We might also hear more about Alicia Hardesty’s gay lover, Beatrice Guapo’s late father, Christopher Palu’s shaky health (he had a heart attack in high school!), and Fabio Costa’s coming out to his mother.  The last may have actually been amusing:  he told her he wanted to go to fashion school.  She agreed to let him do so — so long as he didn’t let it “turn him gay.”  He assured her that wouldn’t happen, as he already was gay.

Then it’s off to Project Runway proper– which opens in Times Square.  The designers are at an outdoor runway, preparing to put on a show in front of hordes of screaming, excited people.  They have two models apiece.  Heidi calls the designers onstage for a champagne toast.

Rewind about 24 hours, and the designers are arriving in New York City.  They all gather at Parsons, which has pictures of the previous winners on the walls.  They also have an assignment waiting for them:  choose an outfit that they feel best represents their aesthetic.  While they’re mulling this over, Melissa Fleiss, 31, tells us that she’d originally studied to be a lawyer– and then shifted gears to go into fashion.

Tim Gunn arrives and welcomes the designers.  He then points out the usual stuff: the sewing machines, the HP tablets, and the accessory wall, which now gets its goodies from Lord and Taylor.  He also issues the season’s first challenge:  make a companion piece for their look.  The designers will have 30 minutes to sketch, a budget of $100.00, and a day to complete the challenge.  This last makes some of the designers nervous.  Beatrice, 29, admits that sewing is not her strength, and another designer moans that it had taken them four days to make their first piece.  Andrea, on the other hand, is calm and confident.  Not only does she have probably the most experience, she’s even taught classes on fashion design.

After the usual sketching time, the designers go off to Mood.  Raul Osorio, 27, hunts for some lace and comes up with some strange-looking pink fabric.  Back at Parson’s, he suffers from a bad case of buyer’s remorse when he discovers that that odd pink fabric– which looks like cotton balls strung together– is really, really hard on his sewing machine.  Fabio, 29, tells his neighbors that he’s a “freegan,”  which means he likes to go dumpster-diving for his food.  I’m not sure we needed to know that.

Christopher, 24, says “hi” to Gunnar, who retorts that he’s not in the mood.  He adds that he can be described as a “moody S.O.B.”  Lifetime, jerks are NOT interesting.  Do you always have to cast them?  Elsewhere, Dmitry tells us that he thinks Buffi is loud and trashy, in both looks and behavior

Tim comes in to make his rounds, and he starts with Melissa, who is using black leather.  He tells her that he’s intrigued by her look.  Next up is Sonja Williams, 27, who is working on a jacket and a dress.  Tim really likes the jacket, but doesn’t have much use for the dress.  He thinks Buffi’s look is “too much,” and is confused by Kooan’s design.

Beatrice tells Tim that she really likes working with knits, and he offers some suggestions on how to proceed.  Tim likes the dress that’s Fabio’s first look, but thinks the skirt is a “throwaway.”  Gunnar tells Tim that he likes designing for older Southern women, but Tim seems to like his work anyway.  Lantie tells Tim that she’s inspired by the 60’s.

Elena Slivnyak, 28, tells Tim that her look is inspired by fencing costumes, which seems to impress him.  Ven shows off the hot pink cocktail dress he’s making.  Tim is suitably impressed by his first look:  a draped white suit with a sculpted hot pink top.  He’s also pleased with Andrea, who is making something he calls “youthful.”  Tim isn’t so pleased with Raul, since his pastel pink cotton-ball skirt is literally see-through.  Tim tells him he needs to fix it.  Christopher complains about how his sewing machine “ate” one of his pieces.  Tim offers encouragement by telling him that his black cocktail dress works very well.

Gunnar and Christopher continue sniping at each other, revealing that they are the two youngest (and least mature) in the room.  Christopher comments that the show is Project Runway, not Toddlers and Tiaras.  The models come in for their fitting, and Christopher finds that his model is taller than advertised– which means his look doesn’t fit her.  On that note, it’s time to go home to the apartment.

The next morning, everybody gets back to work.  Tim sends in the models.  Kooan and Ven are pleased to find their looks fit perfectly, but others aren’t as fortunate.  Some designers send their models off to hair and make-up while others continue frantically sewing.  One of these, Beatrice, punctures a hole in one of her dresses– and she has only 20 minutes left to fix it.

Then it’s off to Times Square, where the designers find an outdoor runway and half of New York City waiting for them.  Heidi welcomes everybody and then introduces the judges, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and two guest judges:  the actress and producer Lauren Graham and  fashion designer Patricia Field, who had been a guest judge in the first episode of Project Runway’s first season.

Ven is up first.  His first design is spectacular:  It’s a draped white suit with billowing pants and a hot pink bustier with a front sculpted to look like a stylized rose.  His companion piece is a sleeveless hot pink cocktail dress with a pleated skirt.  Beatrice’s first look is a shapeless grey knit dress accessorized– and — overpowered by a colorful Aztec throw.  Her companion piece consists of a skirt made of the same grey knit as the dress, a sleeveless, off-the-shoulder rust-colored shirt, and a wide belt.

Lantie’s first look is a 60’s inspired white dress and vest.  When the model takes the vest off, the dress is revealed to be sleeveless, with a yoke down the front.  The companion piece is a light dress sheathed in translucent black tulle with a snakeskin bib that looks literally tacked on.  Andrea seems to have been channeling Mila:  Her first look is a long sleeveless dress with black and white blocking.  Her companion piece is a sleeveless mini-dress with a black top and a flared skirt with black and white bands.

Christopher’s companion piece is a sleeveless black cocktail dress.  His original look is a flowing gown slit up the front and with a strapped bodice.  Alicia’s first look is a deep red jumpsuit with a sleeveless top and knickers with a dropped crotch.  The companion look consists of skinny grey pants, also with a dropped crotch, and a sleeveless deep red and off white top.  Elena’s first look is a structured black outfit inspired by a fencing costume, and her second is a black and white mini-dress.

Buffi’s  first look is a sleeveless black mini-dress with a hot pink halter and a big wide belt with an enormous buckle.  Her second piece consists of extremely tight shiny black pants and a billowing hot pink top held in place by a black belt.  Dmitry’s first look is a  glittering black dress with mid-length sleeves, and his second look is a black miniskirt paired with an off-the-shoulder black top.  Kooan the Kook’s first piece is a pair of grey overall shorts decorated with big aqua circles.  He also made a long-sleeved hot pink print shirt.  His companion piece is a shapeless, opalescent, purple-grey mini-dress, that at least looks as if it wasn’t designed by a lunatic, but isn’t all that interesting.

Gunnar’s first look is a black and gold dress with a yoke, and his companion piece consists of separates that have the same color scheme.  Nathan McDonald, 33, is the quietest designer so far.  He made a draped teal cocktail dress and a draped coral gown with short sleeves.  Sonja made a very nice brown leather jacket and a pair of black pints trimmed with yellow.  For her second look, she made a black and yellow cocktail dress and a black vest.

Melissa’s first look is an asymmetrical black cocktail dress with a single sleeve.  Her second look is a long black gown teamed with a black top.  Raul’s first look is a gray pantsuit and his companion piece is the pastel pink cotton-ball dress that had been giving him fits earlier.  Fabio’s first look is a black shirt with a black and white skirt, and his second piece is a one-sleeved black cocktail dress.

After that it’s time for the judging.  Heidi then explains what this season’s prizes will be:  $50,000 worth of high-tech toys from HP, $100,000 from L’Oreal, and a fashion spread in Marie Claire.  She then calls Kooan, Lantie, Ven, Beatrice, Melissa, and Christopher.  These six got the highest and lowest scores between them, while the others are safe.

Kooan explains that his first look represents his early work, while his second piece represents his more recent work.  Showing one’s evolution as a designer is actually a fairly good idea.  The judges note his good technical skills, but deem his aesthetic “cartoonish.”

Melissa simply wanted to make clothes that would flatter her model.  Nina likes it, while Michael hopes she won’t use black all the time.  Beatrice tells the judges she loves working with knits, and the judges aren’t impressed.  Heidi calls her garments “sad.”

The judges praise Christopher’s work, especially his gown, but Michael dings him for his styling.  As for Lantie, the judges dislike her second dress, and Heidi thinks the snakeskin looks tacked on.  (It does.)  Last up is Ven, who talks about structure and fit.  The judges like both his looks, and praise his skill and sophistication.

After that, it’s time for the judges’ chat.  They start with their favorites, during which they quickly eliminate Melissa from contention, making it a two-man race between Christopher and Ven.  As for the bottom three, Kooan’s second piece was actually too restrained, Beatrice’s Aztec cape wasn’t as dramatic as she’d hoped and just obscured a nice dress.  Lantie’s looks were badly done vintage clothing.

The judges then announce their decision:  Christopher is the winner.  Ven, Melissa, and Kooan are all in, leaving Lantie and Beatrice in the bottom two.  Lantie is in, which means Beatrice is out.

Later episodes will involve a Rockettes challenge and an unconventional materials challenge in a candy store.  Plus, somebody apparently quits– which hasn’t happened since the seventh season.