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Project Runway 11: A new spin on design

Last week on Project Runway, the eleventh regular season began as sixteen new designers descended on New York City.  There they learned that would be competing in teams of eight.  In the real world, after all, designers do have to work together.  The first challenge was to make a design inspired by New York City itself.  Daniel from Team Keeping It Real won, while Emily from the Dream Team was sent home.

Back at Atlas Apartments, the designers discuss the challenge.  “I’m really sad Emily’s going home and it’s kind of sad that we didn’t offer her help until the last minute,” Matthew tells us.  This, of course, is the dilemma of the season:  How far should you carry a lousy designer?  Is it better to try to protect everybody or to “cull the herd,” as Cindy put it?  Doing the latter may enable a team to get rid of dead weight, but it also deprives them of wiggle room, as they will eventually run out of bad designers to toss and start losing good ones.

Speaking of poor designers, Cindy worries that her trip to the bottom will cause her teammates to see her as the weak link.    Similarly, James is also unhappy about being on the bottom– and blames his teammates’ advice.  He vows not to listen to them anymore, thus showing he has missed the point of the season.

At the runway, Heidi informs the designers they will remain in their current teams.  They will not switch teams every week.  This, naturally, begs the question as to what will happen if Team Keeping It Real (KIR) ends up dominating the challenges?  Sooner or later, the Dream Team will not have enough people to be able to compete on equal terms.  It also seems unfair that the stronger designers from the Dream Team get ousted before the weaker ones on Team Keeping It Real, just because the latter have the good luck to be on a winning team.  The obvious solution would be a team switch-up of some kind.

Heidi then sends the designers to meet with Tim, who will fill them in on the details.  Tim meets them at SPiN New York City, a ping-pong social club, which is the latest trend in NYC nightlife.  Tim and the manager, Brandon Hirsch, spell out the challenge:  Make new uniforms for the clubs’ employees.  Each team will make five uniforms, three for women and two for men.  Most of the uniforms will be for servers, but one of the men’s uniforms will be for the “ball boy,” who does things like retrieve stray balls and otherwise takes care of the ping-pong tables and equipment.

To give the designers a feel for his employees’ needs, Hirsch puts them to work serving drinks and retrieving ping-pong balls.  The designers also talk to the employees a little, who tell them things like how they need uniforms that let them bend over without embarrassing themselves.  Hirsch also tells the designers that they need to incorporate the company logo and slogan, “Balls Are Our Business,” in their designs.

Afterwards, the teams caucus.  Stanley from KIR notes that this is a client challenge, so they have to consider the likely tastes of said client, and not do anything too bizarre.  Over on the Dream Team, Matthew volunteers to make pants.  James talks about his background in menswear.

Then the designers go to Mood.  Each team will have a total budget of $500.00, or about $100.00 per outfit.  Team KIR has trouble getting going, as they can’t decide what fabrics they want to get.  Joseph wants to make something whimsical, like the cat sweaters he makes at home, but his teammates would rather he make something sporty.  (I love cats myself, but Joseph’s cat sweater looked way too cutesy for my taste.)

Over on the Dream Team, Cindy is getting irritated because Benjamin is basically shadowing her and questioning her fabric choices.  She especially dislikes this “micro-managing,” since nobody seems to be doing the same thing with James, who did just as badly and is picking out ugly fabrics.

Back at the workroom, the designers start divvying up fabric and assignments.  Kate and Patricia on Team KIR decide to work together.  James on the Dream Team decides to make a shirt with zero input from his partners– and they notice that he’s not even trying to work with the team.  Daniel advises Layana on the best way to drape pants.  He really likes her, and tells us, “If I were straight, I’d marry her.”

Cindy is working on a jacket and is apparently getting a lot of unsolicited advice from Benjamin, who she says is “micro-managing” her.  She acknowledges her lack of experience, but she still finds Benjamin annoying.  Elsewhere, some of the other designers have discovered the screen printer they are to use for making logos.

Tim comes in to make his rounds, and he starts with Team KIR.  Daniel and Layana are working together, while Stanley is making an outfit for a male server.  Amanda is using swimwear material in her look.  Kate and Patricia are working together.  Patricia is making leggings and wants to jazz them up as she fears being sent home if the leggings are too plain.  Tim advises her against this and tells her not to overdesign, as that also gets people sent home.

Over on the Dream Team, Michelle is working on a server’s dress that will have pockets.  Matt and Ben are making jeans for a ball boy, and Tim thinks they look too generic.  Michelle jokingly suggests a kilt– and Matthew thinks it’s a great idea.  Um, no.  Gender bending looks might work at some artistic venues, but probably not at a sports club.

Cindy and Ben are working on an outfit.  Cindy has made a nice jacket, while Ben has made a shirt out of some mesh-like material.  Tim notes that the two pieces don’t really go together.  In fact, a lot of the Dream Team’s looks don’t go together.  Tim then checks James and his shirt, which he calls a “construction disaster.”  It’s poorly made and Tim thinks James should scrap it and start over.  James, of course, thinks he can salvage it.  In fact, he needs to salvage it, since he doesn’t have enough material to make a new shirt.

The models then come in for their fitting.  Cindy’s jacket fits, but the accompanying shorts aren’t finished.  Later, at Atlas, the Dream Team moan about their woes and how much they apparently stink.  Samantha notes that everybody on the Dream Team is friendly with each other; they just can’t make good clothes together.

The following morning, the designers get back to work.  Tim sends in the models, who get dressed and then go to hair and make-up.

Om the runway, Heidi introduces the guest judge, Susan Sarandon.  She is both an actress and the owner of SPiN. The Deam Team is up first, and a lot of them made black and/or white garments.

Michelle is first and she was one of the exceptions, for she made a sleeveless brown dress.  Samantha and Tu  made a sleeveless “jacket,” which is what most people would probably call a “vest.”  the top underneath was also sleeveless.  They also made a skirt.

James made black cropped pants and a messy-looking, color-blocked gray and white tank top.  He then, for some reason, gave his model a skinny turquoise belt to wear.  The outfit looks more appropriate for somebody in the weightroom than waiting tables.  Ben and Cindy made a black outfit consisting of a jacket, a top, and a pair of shorts.

Matthew and Ben made a mesh black tank top with the logo on the front.  Then they lost their minds and made a kilt with the slogan positioned right around crotch level.  NO.  Unless they’re in the sex trade, nobody wants “Balls are my business” emblazoned on an employee’s crotch.

Team KIR also used a lot of black and white in their clothing.  Layana and Daniel made a short black skort with a kind of apron or pocket in the front that would let the server carry things.  They also made a white top with 3/4 length sleeves and a black vest with part of the back cut out, thus revealing the logo on the shirt.

Stanley made a T-shirt and a pair of pants with a dropped crotch.  He put the logo on the front of the shirt and the slogan on the back.  Kate and Patricia made a pair of black leggings and a gray and black tank top with a weird draped back.  Amanda made a sleeveless little black dress.

Joe and Richard made a pair of black pants and a black and white t-shirt.  Both are emblazoned with the slogan.  They also made a sort of holster for the ball boy to wear, that he would use to carry his net, and thus keep his hands free.

After the show, the judges announce that Team KIR is the winning team again, while the Dream Team lost again.  While the Dream Team wait backstage, the judges talk to Team KIR.  They start with Daniel and Layana, who had wanted a sexy but practical look.  Susan says they did a great job.  Zac says the shirt gave the look a certain formality, thus keeping it from looking too sexy.  Heidi agrees that the model looks cute and sexy, but not vulgar.  Nina calls the outfit, “charming, adorable, and practical.”

Since this look is one of the top three looks, its makers are both in contention.  The judges then ask who the winning designer should be.  Daniel gentlemanly nominates Layana, noting that he already has immunity.

Stanley and his male server outfit are up next.  Nina calls it “edgy, fun, and cool.”  Susan notes that her employees would happily wear it.  She goes on to say that “it’s practical, strong, and sexy.”  Heidi likes the pants, except for the drop crotch.  Zac admires the pockets.

Joseph and Richard made a ball boy look.  Heidi calls it “really cool and fashion-forward.”  Zac likes the graphics, while Susan considers the holster clever.

Then it’s time for the three bottom looks.  First up is James, who had made a look for a male server.  Nina calls the length of the pants “disturbing,” and said the model looked more like a pool boy than a server.  Susan says she doesn’t see anything about the outfit that would identify him as a server.  Heidi doesn’t like the “open armpits” in the shirt, and I agree.  I prefer not to see a waiter’s hairy armpits when I’m being served food, thank you very much.  Zac simply thinks the shirt looks messy.

Benjamin and Cindy made a look for a female server.  Heidi thinks it looks more like a hotel receptionist’s outfit.  Susan doesn’t think it would fit in with the environment at SPiN.  Zac agrees and Nina thinks it looks like something from a “dated catalogue.”  She adds that the shorts were terrible.

The final bottom look is the ball boy outfit made by Matthew and Benjamin.  Susan simply says that her guys wouldn’t wear a skirt.  She jokingly calls the look, “ballsy.”  Zac thinks it’s impractical.  Heidi thinks the crotch piece with the slogan is tasteless and vulgar.

The judges then have their chat, starting with the designers they disliked.  Matthew’s crotch piece was tasteless.  James’ look was boring.  Benjamin made two pieces that ended up in bottom outfits and had unsuccessfully tried to lead his team.  Cindy’s jacket was generic and dowdy.

As for the designers they did like.  Layana and Daniel had made a sporty and elegant outfit.  Most of the judges liked Stanley’s outfit, but Zac thought the dropped crotch in the pants looked sloppy.  Joe and Richard’s male server outfit was wearable and, with some tweaking, could work for female servers.

Heidi then announces the judges’ decision.  Layana is the winner and the rest of Team KIR is safe.  Samantha, Tu, Matthew, Benjamin, and Michelle are safe, leaving Cindy and James in the bottom two.  Cindy is safe, which means James is out.

Next week:  the designers have to make something for Heidi.