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Project Runway 11: Of Proms and Ducks

Last week on Project Runway, the designers confronted a “real woman” challenge in  which they had to make fashionable outfits for retirees.  Stanley won and Benjamin was sent home.

The next morning, Richard moves in with the remaining guys, as his roommates are all gone.  Several people are surprised that Benjamin was sent home rather than Amanda.

The designers are startled when Heidi comes out on the runway– leading a duck on a leash.  Daniel is delighted, since he’d had a pet duck as a child, while Tu, who does not like ducks, is not.  Of course, everybody is wondering what the duck has to do with fashion, and at least one designer guesses that they’ll be making clothes for farmers.  Heidi, after introducing everybody to Fred the Duck, sends them to the work room, where Tim will explain everything.

In the workroom, they find their desks covered with stacks of duct tape of every color imaginable.  Tim introduces everybody to Bill Kahl, the Executive VP of Marketing at ShurTech Brands, the company that makes Duck Tape.  Bill shows off his yellow tie, which is made from Duck Tape, and he and Tim explain the challenge.  It’s an “unconventional materials” challenge in which the designers have to make prom dresses out of Duck Tape.  They will have only a few hours to make said dress, as they will have to take the results to a high school and let the students of said school vote on their favorite.  Those votes will count for 20% of a team’s score.

Speaking of the teams, each team will be responsible for one dress.  It is also time to mix up the pairs again.  As Stanley won the last challenge, he gets to pick his new partner.  He chooses Layana, saying he ” could learn things from her.”  That probably translates to:  “I’m 44, and she’s in her 20′s, so she probably knows better than I do what today’s teenage girls want to wear to the prom.”

Stanley’s decision puts his former partner Richard’s nose out of joint, and Richard informs us that Stanley will regret not picking him since making prom dresses is his specialty.  Kate decides to stick with Tu, because she knows he’ll let her boss him around. The other teams are Michelle and Amanda, Richard and Daniel, and Samantha and Patricia.

Richard and Daniel decide to make a gold dress inspired by Beyoncé. Richard, apparently still smarting from Stanley’s picking Layana over him, takes all the gold tape in the room, saying he wants to make certain that his team’s gold dress is the only one.  May I point out this guy is 39?

Stanley and Layana seem to be getting off to a rocky start, as they have trouble agreeing on a color scheme.  He wants pink and black, and she’s not sure if today’s teenagers would go for that.  In the end, he lets her pick the color scheme and she chooses a black and white print.

Kate and Tu draw different designs and eventually pick one of Kate’s designs.  Michelle and Amanda can’t agree on which color scheme to use:  Michelle wants a camouflage pattern, while Amanda likes a tie-dye pattern.  Since neither can persuade the other to her point of view, they decide to make their own pattern, using blacking and red tape.

Patricia is also making a print, and Samantha admits to being confused by her new partner.  Daniel isn’t happy with the way the gold dress is turning out.  In fact, he thinks it looks like a baked potato.  He takes that as his cue to scrap it and start over.

Tim comes in to make his rounds, and he starts with Stanley and Layana.  He admires the sleekness of the black and silver top they’ve finished.  He notices that Samantha and Patricia don’t seem to be working together all that well, and that they’ve made two silver tops for some reason.  He reminds them that it is a team challenge and warns them to mind their time.  Tim likes the gold dress Richard and Daniel are making.  He stops by Amanda and Michelle, who are making a black and red patterned dress.  He also warns them to watch their time.  Tim then checks in on Kate and Tu, who have decided to make a long gown.  They explain that they also wanted to make the dress look as if it were made of actual fabric.  Tim explains that that is not the point of this particular challenge– and that their dress looks “forgettable.”

The models then come in try on their frocks.  Daniel and Richard are delighted to find that their dress fits, while Michelle and Amanda have to make some quick alterations.  Then Tim arrives to take everybody to the high school.

The designers and the models go to a high school gym.  The students, who are wearing ordinary clothing and not formal wear, cheer Tim enthusiastically.  He then explains the challenge and encourages the teens to examine the dresses.  They do– and Amanda and Michelle notice that they and their dress seem to be getting little attention.  The students not only look at the dresses, they ask questions about techniques.

The following morning, the designers get back to work, putting the finishing touches on their dresses.  In some cases, the high school kids had told them that they’d disliked something, and the designers are making changes as a result.  Tim sends in the models, who get dressed and go to hair and make-up.

On the runway, Heidi tells the designers that Patricia and Samantha’s dress had gotten the most votes from the students.  Unless the judges totally hate their dress, they should be at least safe this round.  Heidi then introduces the guest judge, a pink-haired fashion designer named Chris Benz.

Michelle and Amanda made a strapless, patterned black, red and silver dress with an asymmetrical bodice.  It’s trimmed with black and white houndstooth.  Amanda and Michelle also made matching bracelets out of Duck Tape as accessories.

Stanley and Layana made a sleeveless black and white dress.  The skirt consists of rectangular black panels bordered by a black and white pattern, with the results being sewn together.  The bodice is black and trimmed with a black and white pattern.  The model also wore a hot pink sash with a gigantic bow.  Stanley and Layana also made a wide black and white bracelet out of Duck Tape.

Richard and Daniel made a knee-length strapless gold dress.  It has lattice work down the sides and ruffles forming the skirt.  In my not so humble opinion, it would have worked better as a long sleek gown.  They also made a red and gold corsage.

Kate and Tu  made a strapless dark teal gown.  They altered the texture of the tape to make it seem as if the gown had been made of some denim-like fabric.  They also attached a stylized “flower” to the gown.  The gown itself is okay– but it would have worked better in a different color, as the dark teal seems too old for something intended for a teenager.

Patricia and Samantha made a black, blue, and silver dress that is fairly long in back, but quite short in the front, thus exposing the silver lining.  The bodice is silver and has straps.  The bottom of the skirt is black, while the upper portion is royal blue, and there are flecks of black and silver throughout the blue portion.

After the show, the judges start with Samantha and Patricia, who describe the techniques they used to make their dress.  Heidi loves the dress and Nina appreciates the details.  Chris thinks it should by tighter.  Zac likes the silver.  The judges ask which of them should get the win, and Samantha names Patricia, who had come up with the techniques used.

Kate and Tu simply wanted to make a gown.  Heidi doesn’t think it looks fun, and Chris agrees, calling the gown “old-fashioned” and “square.”  Nina doesn’t like the color and thinks it’s too long for a prom dress.  Zac disagrees:  He’s made prom dresses and many girls want long dresses.  That doesn’t change the fact that Kate and Tu’s gown “lacks fantasy.”

Stanley and Layana simply wanted to have fun with the challenge, and they show off the bracelet they’d made out of Duck Tape.  Nina loves the styling and the bow.  Heidi thinks the dress is modern and cool.  Zac notes it has lots of movement.  Chris calls it fresh and modern.  As for who did what, Layana had designed the top, while Stanley had made the skirt.

Amanda and Michelle wanted to make a dress that a punk rocker would wear.  Chris loves the print.  Zac calls it “fantastic,” but he doesn’t like the cutouts.  Nina could see a “cool girl” like Gwen Stefani wearing it.    Heidi also likes it.   Amanda says she would give the win to Michelle.

Daniel and Richard show off the lattice work in their gold dress, which they say was inspired by Sixteen Candles– which came out in 1984.  Ooops.  Heidi praises the tailoring, but thinks the dress looks old-fashioned.  Chris agrees, while Nina thinks the dress is one-dimensional and looks as if it were made of tin.

The judges then have their chat, starting with the teams they’d liked.  Stanley and Layana had worked well together and made a cool dress with nice accessories.  Michelle and Amanda had turned out a “show-stopper” and did a good job working with patterns.  Samantha and Patricia had made the students’ favorite look.

As for the designers they didn’t like, Kate and Tu had made a boring, old-fashioned dress.  The judges also note that the dress was mostly Kate’s idea, and that Tu doesn’t stand up for himself.  This leads to the age-old debate:  Which is worse, the designer who imposes their bad ideas on others, or the designer who lets himself get steamrollered?  As for Richard and Daniel, their dress was technically good, but it was a 1980′s dress, and the year is 2013.

The judges then announce their decision.  Stanley and Layana are in, while Michelle and Ananda are the winning team.  Michelle is the challenge winner, and five grand in her name will be donated to Autism Speaks by Duck Tape.  Patricia and Samantha are also in.  Richard and Daniel are in, leaving Kate and Tu in the bottom.  In a surprise double elimination, both are sent home.

So, eight designers are left.  Patricia and Amanda are the only ones who have not yet won something, which means they need to step up their game in order to stay competitive.  Nobody seems to be running away with the season, though.  Practically everybody has a reasonable chance of getting to the finals.

Another interesting aspect to this season is that the remaining contenders are mostly minorities.  Samantha and Stanley are black.  Patricia has Native American ancestry.  Layana hails from Brazil, and Daniel, whose last name is Esquivel, is Hispanic.  The regular seasons and All-Star seasons have so far produced only three winners belonging to minorities:  Chloe Dao (born in Laos), Anya Ayoung-Chee (born in Trinidad and has Chinese ancestry), and Mondo Guerra (Mexican ancestry).  This season could easily produce another minority winner to join them.

Next week:  The designers work with male models.

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