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Project Runway 10, Episode 12: Of Leading Ladies and Lame Judges

Last week on Project Runway, the designers had to make baby clothes fit for Heidi’s Truly Scrumptious line.  They also had to take care of crying baby dolls, which was both demeaning and annoying.  Sonjia and Christopher both won for making, respectively, the best boy’s and girl’s outfits.  Elena was sent home.

The following morning, Fabio tells us that he’s delighted to have made it to the Final Five.  Melissa notes that she, Fabio, and Dmitry have all won one challenge apiece.  As Sonjia and Christopher have won multiple times, they probably have two of the Final Three spots sewn up.  Ergo, Melissa has to make a better outfit than Dmitry or Fabio in order to win her spot.

On the runway, Heidi congratulates the designers for getting to this point.  She tells them that this is the last challenge before Fashion Week and it will determine who among them will go.  She then sends them to “a far, far away place,” that turns out to be Oheka Castle, which was built about 100 years ago by Otto Hermann Kahn.  Tim is waiting for them.  With him is Billy B. from L’Oreal Paris who tells them about their new make-up line, Electric Fantasie.  There are four make-up groups for four “leading ladies”:  Enchanted Queen, the Seductive Temptress, the Wise Mystic, and the Artsy Muse.  The Enchanted Queen uses a lot of black and red, the Seductive Temptress combines neutrals, metallics, and green, the Wise Mystic uses cool colors, while the Artsy Muse uses warm colors.

Tim goes on to explain that the challenge will be to make an avant-garde look inspired by both the Oheka Castle and the Electric Fantasie make-up.   Tim then draws names from the button bag and thus assigns everybody a lady:  Fabio gets the Enchanted Queen, Sonjia gets the Seductive Temptress, Dmitry gets the Wise Mystic, and Melissa gets the Artsy Muse.  Christopher gets to pick and quickly chooses the Enchanted Queen.

The designers will get 45 minutes to sketch on the castle grounds, $400.00 to spend at Mood, and two days to complete the challenge.  As the designers roam the grounds and sketch, Dmitry decides to make a suit, while Sonjia decides to make a form-fitting look for her temptress.  Christopher imagines an evil queen look, and Fabio imagines a young, regal queen in a structured coat.

At Mood, the designers get 45 minutes to shop.  Sonjia hunts for materials that will fit her color palette.  Melissa tells us that she feels “lost,” because she didn’t get the Enchanted Queen, which would have let her use a lot of black.  Instead, she has to work with the more colorful Artsy Muse.

Back at Parson’s, Tim tells the designers they have until 10:30 p.m. to work on their looks.  He strongly urges them to be ambitious and tells them the judges are expecting two months of work in the next two days.  As soon as he leaves, Sonjia discovers she has a serious problem:  She can’t find the gold fabric she’d really wanted, and she’d bought five yards of the stuff.  She vows to “make it work,” and starts fiddling with some green fabric.

Tim comes in to make his rounds and starts with Melissa, who is working with leather.  He warns her to really watch her time.  Christopher is working on a look with an hour-glass figure and exaggerated hips.  Tim says nothing, but seems dubious.  Dmitry shows off a blue coat, and Tim warns him that unusual sleeves are not enough to make a garment avant-garde.  Fabio has made a coat and is working on a dress and shorts.  Tim really dislikes the coat, calling it “costumey” and “flat.”  Last up is Sonjia, who apparently doesn’t tell Tim about her missing fabric.  If she did, the audience doesn’t see or hear about it.  The gold fabric is apparently history, which is a shame, as gold and deep green go great together.  Anyway, Tim gives Sonjia a pep talk mixed with tough love, telling her that he doesn’t think she has shown her true, full potential.  He urges her to “unleash” something.  At 10:30 p.m., the designers head home.

The following morning, the designers get back to work.  Fabio apparently slept poorly and tells us that he feels “dead.”  At Parson’s, Sonjia DR’s that she doesn’t want the judges to dismiss her look as something they’ve seen before.  She is working on a green dress with pleats, and plays around with the material.

Fabio talks about flipping a pair of pants upside down when he was in design school, and decides to try the same trick with his coat.  Billy B.  comes in for the make-up consultations, and not surprisingly, he uses the make-up from Electric Fantasie.

Tim comes in to make his rounds again.  He starts with Fabio, and comments, “You’ve had an epiphany.”  He really likes Fabio’s coat now and calls it “buoyant and sculptural.”  Melissa has finished a black and white skirt and describes what the rest of her look will be like.  Upon hearing her plans, Tim notes, “You have a lot to do,” and lets her get back to work.

Tim then visits Sonjia and isn’t impressed with her green dress.  He warns her to not to make something that looks like a student project.  He’s even less impressed with Christopher’s black dress– which he thinks looks like something from the 1890′s.  It’s beautifully made, but not avant-garde.  Dmitry’s look has the same problem:  It’s exquisitely made, but not avant-garde.  Worse, the silhouette is too similar to other stuff he’s made before.

After Tim leaves, the models come in for their fitting.  Things go well for Fabio and Sonjia; their outfits may not be avant-garde, but at least they fit.  Christopher is also happy with his dress, while Melissa has doubts about hers.  After that, it’s time to go home for the night.

The following morning. it’s the day of the runway show, and the designers talk a lot about how close they are to Fashion Week, about how much it would stink to get sent home now, and how about how it’s always been their dream to be a fashion designer and go to Fashion Week.  We’ve heard it all before.

As the designers work, Tim comes in to tell them that they will have extra time for hair and make-up.  He then sends in the models.  As his model gets her hair and face done, Fabio works on what he calls “finishings,” which have to be made by hand.  Not surprisingly, when Tim comes to collect everybody, Fabio and Melissa are both still working.

On the runway, Heidi introduces the guest judge, actress Zoe Saldana.  She’s also a co-founder of the fashion website www.mydb.com, which is short for “My Fashion Database.”

Melissa made a long black and white patterned skirt with a slit up past the knee that exposes the skirt’s coral lining.  She also made a sleeveless black shirt with coral trim around the collar, and a turquoise leather vest.  The model’s also wearing black leather gauntlets.

Fabio made a short-sleeved maroon jacket and sheer black palazzo pants that billow so much they could be taken for a gown.  He also made a sheer black top that’s woven or braided in the front.  It’s very dark and doesn’t look particularly queenly.  (On the other hand, neither do many of Elizabeth II’s outfits…)

Dmitry made a structured dark blue suit with a high, detachable collar.  It also has a plunging back and exposed zipper.  If one thinks “slightly futuristic” equals “avant-garde,” then this could qualify.  Similarly, if one equates “mystic” with “monk,” then this look might be sober enough to fit.  But, it’s really just a suit.

Sonjia made a green gown.  She used illusion to cover up her model’s and much of her front.  Unfortunately, it’s significantly lighter than her model’s skin tone, which makes it obvious that it’s there.  The rest of the front is covered by two folded pieces of green material.  I get the feeling that if Sonjia had had her gold fabric, she’d have used a lot less illusion, and the resulting dress would have been stunning.

Christopher is last up, and he made a glittering black gown with exaggerated hips that give the model an hour-glass figure she doesn’t really have.  Black feathers decorate the shoulders.  In a bizarre touch, the model’s also wearing gauntlets made of black feathers.  The model looks more like a comic book supervillain than any kind of queen.

Then it’s time for the designers to face the judges.  They start with Sonjia, who did the Seductive Temptress.  Dumb Comment #1:  Heidi loves the color and the concept and can see it on the red carpet.  This is not for the red carpet.  The difference between a red carpet look and an avant-garde look is comparable to the difference between a Maserati and a concept car  Heidi does add that that the illusion doesn’t match the model’s skin tone at all.  I agree that there’s no excuse at this point in the competition for Sonjia not doing a better job there.  Dumb Comment #2:  Nina says she sees green as the color of envy, not sexual temptation.  Green was part of Sonjia’s assigned color palette.  She had to use it– especially after her gold material went missing.  Again, nobody apparently mentioned this fact.  Dumb Comment #3:  Michael thinks it looks like an ice skating costume for Nancy Kerrigan.  Nobody ice skates in long gowns, not even ice dancers.  He does note that there is too much illusion, especially in the back.  He also thinks all that illusion makes the dress look like something an old woman would wear.  Zoe simply thinks the gown looks incomplete.

Christopher is next, and he did the Enchanted Queen.  Dumb Comment #4:  Michael likes the eye make-up, while Heidi likes the nail polish.  What about the gown, guys?  Michael feels the dress is Gothic and costumey.  The feather gauntlets are “coo-coo.”  He and Zoe both would have liked to see some construction in the chest area.  There’s an “emptiness” there.  The problem is that a look that exaggerates the hips doesn’t work that well on a small-breasted woman:  it tends to make her proportions look out of whack.  Heidi adds that she likes the back better than the front.

Dmitry tells the judges that his Wise Mystic lives in a castle.  Heidi thinks the suit is amazing, as there are angles she’s never seen before.  Zoe thinks the sleeves are stunning, but get lost amidst the other details of the look.  Michael dislikes the shoulders and the “Vampira” collar, which Zoe then compares to collars worn by the Chippendales.  Nina calls the tailoring impeccable.  Yes, but is it avant-garde?  So far, nobody has said anything about whether any of these looks are avant-garde or not.

Fabio also worked on the Enchanted Queen look.  He wanted to show the conflict within her.  Michael likes the jacket., but not the palazzo pants.  Zoe likes the jacket as well.  Fabio demonstrates how his jacket can be flipped upside down and then worn, and the judges are suitably impressed.  Nina likes the jacket, too, but Heidi and Zoe don’t like the overall look.

Last up is Melissa, the Artsy Muse.  She was reminded of Andy Warhol and wanted to use bold colors.  Michael loves it.  He loves the fact that she made separates and used colors.  Nina loves the vest, but thinks the skirt is too long.  Heidi  wonders aloud which is uglier:  Melissa’s look or Fabio’s.  Zoe likes it, and Michael praises Melissa’s skill at working with leather.

Heidi then asks each designer why deserve to go to  Fashion Week and who should go with them.  They answer the first question with the expected natter about they learned to sew as children, how they have so much more to show, how they’ve dreamed about going on Fashion Week since they were twelve years old, etc.  As for the second question, Melissa would take Sonjia and Fabio; Fabio would take Melissa and Christopher; Dmitry would take Fabio and Christopher; Christopher would take Fabio and Dmitry; Sonjia would take Melissa and Dmitry.

The judges then dismiss their designers to have their chat.  As they can’t agree on this particular challenge, they discuss designers’ past efforts as well.  They note Melissa made something with a rock and vibe this time, which she has had not done before.  That shows she has range.  She’s also adept at handling color.  Sonjia “respects women’s bodies,” which probably means she knows how to make a woman look sexy without making her look like a tramp.  They do wonder about her showmanship and if she has a “story to tell.”  That last is Dumb Comment #5.

On this show, and probably in the real world, fashion designers have to walk a line between pleasing their clients and remaining true to their own style.  We’ve seen designers get tossed from going to one extreme or the other.  Nathan got sent home in the “real women” challenge for trying too hard to please his client and making a tacky dress as a result.  Ven eventually annoyed the judges with his origami rose fixation.  Given that Sonjia has already won three challenges, the answer would seem obvious.  If it’s not, then it’s time to rethink some of the challenges.  In particular, it might be a good idea to toss some of the corporate challenges, like the Lord and Taylor challenge and definitely toss irrelevant nonsense like the baby clothes challenge, and replace them with challenges that would let the designers express their own sense of style.

The judges continue with Christopher, who makes beautiful, intriguing clothing.  Dmitry had made a perfect jacket.  His aesthetic tends to be severe, but he has excellent craftsmanship.  Fabio is androgynous and likes to play with gender roles.

Heidi then announces the judges’ decisions.  Christopher is in and Dmitry is the winner.  Melissa is also in, leaving Fabio and Sonjia in the bottom.  Fabio is in, which means Sonjia is out, which makes no sense, especially when the judges were shown discussing past challenges as well as this one.  Given that Sonjia had three wins to her credit, she should have gone on to Fashion Week, and Melissa or Fabio should have been sent home in her stead.

Next week:  The Final Four have to make collections which will determine the three who go on to Fashion Week.  Plus, Tim sees the designers at home.

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