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Project Runway 11: Blunders from Down Under

Last week on Project Runway, the designers faced the second “unconventional challenge” of the season and had to make prom dresses out of duct tape.  Michelle won, while Kate and Tu were sent home in a surprise double elimination.

Immediately after the judging, Heidi and the other judges announce that they are changing the teams.  The judges have decided to create two new teams of four.  Each team will consist of designers the judges would like to see working together.  They decide to put Daniel and Patricia together, saying they would like to see her textiles matched with his aesthetic.  Michelle and Stanley are also assigned to this team.  The other team will consist of Richard, Layana, Samantha, and Amanda.  As for the challenge, Heidi simply tells them it will be a lot of fun, and Tim will take them on a field trip.

The next morning, the designers meet Tim at a dance hall, where they will meet their clients and models.  Said clients and models prove to be a group of very fit, attractive young men.  An awe-struck Richard describes them as looking like the cast from The Avengers, with their chiseled, well-muscled bodies.  They are the Thunder from Down Under, a troupe of Australian performers who combine dancing with stripping.  They cheerfully perform for the designers.

After the performance, Tim explains the challenge.  It is, of course a men’s wear challenge, which immediately scares some of the designers, such as Michelle, since she’s never made men’s clothing before.  Each team will make three performance outfits, and one of them must be a suit.  The looks have to be cohesive and have to include tearaways, so the stripper can yank off the garment easily.

The teams will have a single day to complete the challenge and a budget of $750 to spend at Mood.  One day!?  To make a suit and two other cohesive looks, all of them tearaways?!  Are they serious?!  I’m calling it right now:  We’re going to see at least one poorly-made outfit.  The fact that at least half the designers seem intimidated by their clients’ buff bodies bodes very ill.  It’s obvious most of them are used to making clothes only for very skinny, undernourished women.

The teams get the usual thirty minutes to caucus.  The teams quickly pick their names.  Daniel, Patricia, Michelle, and Stanley are on Team Shades of Gray, while the other four designers are on Team Slick and Hip.  Michelle suggests making bike messenger looks.  (The suit would belong to their boss?)  Team Shades of Gray also start divvying up the labor.  Stanley has actually made costumes with tearaways before, so he’ll tackle the suit.  Over on Team Slick and Hip, Richard is throwing out suggestions that his peers keep shooting down.  Given that they involve stuff like crystal buttons, who can blame them?  Yes, they’re performers, but that doesn’t mean they want to dress like Liberace.

The teams then go to Mood, and Amanda tells us that Richard’s sensibilities are “too Las Vegas” for her.  She’s also intimidated by the clients’ large muscular bodies.  Back at the workroom, Team Slick and Hip start dividing up the labor, while Team Shades of Gray continues dividing up their chores.  Stanley gets to work on coat patterns, while Patricia  starts making one of her textiles.

Richard, frustrated that his teammates won’t even consider his ideas, takes a break and calls a friend, Maneca.  He breaks down crying while talking to her.  Patrica is weaving white strips of cloth for a shirt.

Tim comes in to make his rounds, and he starts with Team Slick and Hip.  He can see that they’re having problems.  Layana is making what’s supposed to be a men’s jacket– and it’s much too feminine.  Richard is working on the shirts– and he has never made menswear before.

Team Shades of Gray seems to be doing somewhat better.  Michelle is working on a vest and she has decorated it with buttons.  Tim advises her to get rid of them, as they make the vest look very old-fashioned.  As in, from the 19th century.  Patricia is way behind on her shirt, and Tim scolds her for her time management.  Tim thinks Daniel’s look is also old-fashioned.

Afterwards, Layana, who isn’t satisfied with the answers she got from Richard, goes to Stanley, who is on the opposing team, for advice on how to make a man’s jacket.  The clients come in to try on their clothes.

On the day of the runway show, everybody gets back to work.  Amanda is working on men’s pants.  Stanley is trying very hard to finish his suit, while Patricia is similarly trying to finish her woven shirt.  Tim sends in the models, and Layana finds her jacket is too tight.  Part of the problem is that the designers were given dressmakers’ dummies with the proportions of average-sized men– and the Thunder from Down Under are all big guys.  Somebody with men’s wear experience might have known how to compensate for that, but Layana does not have such experience.

As the guys go to hair and make-up, Michelle tries to help Stanley by hotgluing the velcro on his shirt.  As soon as she’s done this, she realizes that she’s made a horrible mistake, for the tearaway is no longer a tearaway.  Samantha notices that the pants for her team’s clients are too short.  Unfortunately, it’s too late to do anything about it.

On the runway, Heidi introduces the guest judge, Emmy Rossum, an actress and singer.

Team Slick and Hip are up first.  Richard and Samantha made the first look.  Richard’s shirt is too long, has an odd-looking collar, and is sleeveless.  Button-down shirts for guys usually have sleeves.  The black vest looks a bit small and the black pants are baggy.

Richard and Amanda made the second look, and both the time crunch and their inexperience with menswear are showing big time.  The black pants are too long and ill-fitting.  The white long-sleeved shirt has a Peter Pan collar– which is never used for a man’s look.  The black tie is simply too short.

Amanda, Layana, and Richard all worked together on the third look, an all-black suit.  Layana’s jacket is much too feminine, as it hugs the contours of the man’s body the way a  woman’s jacket does.  The collar also looks off.  Amanda’s pants are too short.

On the upside, when the guys do a brief dance, they demonstrate that the tearaways work perfectly.

Team Shades of Gray is up next.  Daniel and Patricia made the first look, which consists of black pants, a long-sleeved white shirt, and a black coat.  The shirt and pants are okay, but the coat is boxy and shapeless.

Stanley made the second look.  It consists of a black jacket and matching pants, plus a white button down shirt.

Last up is Michelle, who made charcoal gray pants, a plaid vest of the same color, and a sleeveless pale gray shirt.  The vest has a little tie-on designed to hold a handkerchief.  It basically tells everybody, “I didn’t have time to make a proper pocket!”  The vest is also too short.  Still, Michelle does get points for being the only designer to use a pattern in her look.

The models do a little dance– and not all the tearaways work.  Michelle realizes just how badly she messed up by using a glue gun, since the shirt she’d glued velcro to is one of the pieces that doesn’t work.

Afterwards, Heidi tells the designers that she’s disappointed in them.  She noticed lots of construction problems and an overall lack of creativity.  “Bad designers!”  she scolds at one point.

Oh, please.  Get real.  It’s the producers who are to blame for this mess, not the designers.  Most or all of the designers specialize in women’s clothing, and this was a menswear challenge.  It was also a costume design challenge, and the contestants all specialize in either fashion or ready-to-wear.  Finally, the clients were all large, muscular men with body types the designers typically don’t work with.  The challenge, in short, called for the designers to work far outside their comfort zone.  The clients themselves made matters worse by asking for suits.  For all these reasons, the designers needed at least two days to compensate for the difficulties.  Two days would have allowed them to correct the more severe fit issues.  Two days might have allowed the designers to experiment more with colors and patterns.

Team Slick and Hip is the losing team, while Team Shades of Gray wins by a nose.  The judges start with Team Shades of Gray, who wanted to make office looks– probably because they’d been told to include a suit.  Heidi wishes they’d made things to show off the dancers’ bodies.  Nina thinks the trench coat looks more like a beautician’s smock.  (It does.)  Emmy liked the office theme, but notes that Michelle’s outfit didn’t go with it; the vest and sleeveless shirt look more appropriate for a gas station.  The dancers did like the pants, which allowed them freedom of movement.  Zac liked Patricia’s shirt and said Michelle’s vest was the most inventive piece in the collection.  The judges give Michelle points for using a zipper rather than the usual velcro for her tearaway.

Then it’s Team Slick and Hip’s turn to face the judges.  Nina gets a horrible fit of the giggles when one set of pants inches open, as they’re much too small.  After collecting herself, she says the shirts are too long, the collars are a problem, and the jacket is much too feminine.  Richard protests at one point that he’s never made men’s clothing before.  Zac responds that he should have learned at least the basics in design school– including how to make man’s shirts.  (That might be true, but some of these designers are self-taught.)  He also scolds Richard for his collars.   Heidi then asks everybody who they think the weakest designer is.  Everybody names Amanda, who, when asked, names Richard.

The judges then have their chat.  They acknowledge that performance clothes are hard to make, but then comment that nobody seems to know how to tailor.  You try making a suit in eight hours, guys. Slick and Hip turned out some awful clothes, like Layana’s ill-fitting, too feminine jacket, Richard’s shirts with their horrible collars, and Amanda’s overly tight pants.  Samantha, by contrast, made a comparatively good pair of pants.  Team Shades of Gray was somewhat better, but Patricia’s shirt was too “arts and crafts and Daniel’s coat looked creepy, like a flasher’s coat.

Heidi then announces the judges’ decision.  For the first time in Project Runway history there is no winner.  Team Shades of Gray are all in.  Samantha and Layana are also in, while Richard and Amanda are in the bottom.  Richard is in, so Amanda is out.

Next week:  The designers have to make ready-to-wear looks for Lord & Taylor.