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Project Runway 11: Off to Europe

Last week, on Project Runway, the teams were dissolved.  Each designer had to create an editorial look for Marie Claire magazine.  To aid them in this endeavor– and to try to maintain the “team” concept, each designer also got an assistant in the form of an eliminated contestant.  Stanley won, and Michelle lost, but was told she was going to get a second chance, which the judges ominously called a “do-or-die moment.”

As the designers wait anxiously backstage to learn Michelle’s fate, Tim comes in to tell them that nobody is going home.  Instead, all of them are to meet the judges in ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, everybody goes to the runway.  There, Heidi tells them that their next challenge will be the one that determines who among them will go on to Fashion Week.  Said challenge is to make a high-end look inspired by one of the fashion capitals of the world.  Heidi then asks if anybody has been to Europe before, and it turns out that everybody has, except for Daniel.

The designers will be going to Europe for a day to get inspired, sketch, and buy fabric.  They will be accompanied by a previously eliminated designer, who will be acting as their assistant.  Heidi then passes out plane tickets and announces the team-ups.  Layana and Samantha will be going to Barcelona; Patricia and Kate will be going to Paris; Daniel and Amanda will be going to Berlin; and Stanley and Richard will be going to London.  As for Michelle and Tu, they will be staying in New York.

On the one hand, it does seem mean to pass out plane tickets in front of Michelle– and then tell her there isn’t one for her, because she didn’t follow Nina’s directions.  On the other hand, spending only a day in a fascinating city must be extremely frustrating.  Plus, a trip to Europe involves hours-long plane rides both ways– and Michelle can use at least part of that time to get caught up on sorely-needed sleep.

Each designer will get a budget of $1,000, and a whole day to sketch and buy fabric.  The Europe-bound designers then get packed and board planes for Europe.  There, they admire the various landmarks and buildings.  Patricia checks out the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.  Daniel waxes emotional upon seeing Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall, noting how it was used to keep people apart.  Back in New York, Michelle feels homesick and lonely

In Paris, Patricia takes pictures of graffiti, noting how some of it involves paper cut-outs glued to the walls.  Graffiti artists would then paint on or around the cut-outs.  Patricia decides to make something inspired by Paris’ gritty side, rather than take the more expected route and make something romantic.  In Barcelona, Layana admires a cathedral and other old buildings.  She notes the details of the tiles.

In London, Stanley checks out Westminster Abbey, the Parliament Building, and Big Ben.  He decides to make a look for a ghostly woman.  He also confides that he used to want to be a vampire when he was a boy.  Insert your Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer joke here.  In Berlin, Daniel is fascinated by the geometric buildings.

Back in New York, Michelle has rallied from her earlier funk, and she and Tu are taking a bus tour of the city.  There she notes how the older buildings are sandwiched between the newer ones.

In Berlin, Daniel sketches a jacket and a dress.  His first idea is to make a jacket and skirt, but Amanda advises against that, warning him the combo could easily skew “old.”  (She’s got a point, as the typical woman’s business suit involves a jacket and skirt combo.)  Daniel also decides to make a draped dress, rather than his usual fitted dress.

In Barcelona, Layana talks about how she and her siblings were raised by a single mother.  She decides to make a leather jacket with a tile pattern.  In New York, Michelle decides to make something out of cashmere.

In London, Stanley and Richard go shopping.  They find a glittering black fabric that Stanley loves and wants very much–only to discover that fabrics cost a lot more in London than they do in the U.S.  Stanley ends up buying some of the glittering fabric, plus a plainer and cheaper black fabric.  In Barcelona, Layana wants leather and silk–only to discover the fabric store there doesn’t have either material.  She eventually finds some lace that will help her capture a feeling of “old beauty.”  Language barriers prove a problem for Patricia in Paris:  She doesn’t know French and the store clerk doesn’t speak English.  She’s still able to get the fabrics she wants in the end.  In Berlin, Daniel discovers that the local fabric store doesn’t have silk or leather– so he settles for white pleather.

By contrast, Michelle gets to go to Mood, and has no trouble finding all the cashmere and leather she wants.  She gets five yards of gray cashmere.

The next day, Michelle and Tu start to work on their design.  They haven’t gotten very far, when the other designers walk in, all chattering about their whirlwind European trips.  This upsets Michelle, who, of course, didn’t get to go to Europe, but she rallies again and continues working.  Everybody has a lot to do and they work busily until it’s time to go home.

The next morning, everybody gets back to work.  Patricia is making fabric out of layers of material.  Michelle is making a top out of leather.  Daniel is making long black boots as part of his look.

Tim comes in to make his rounds, and he starts with Daniel, who loved his mini-trip to Berlin.  He shows Tim both some pictures he took there and the white pleather jacket he’s making.  Next up is Stanley, who describes his look as “modest, but with a kick.”  Tim thinks the capelet and dress combo look “monastic,” until Stanley removes the capelet.  That should be his cue to have the model do the same thing when walking down the runway.

Tim is impressed by Patricia’s jacket, but thinks it would work even better as a top.  Michelle is making a brown leather breast plate and Tim likes it.  He also likes Michelle’s idea of painting an ombre effect on her gray cashmere.  Layana tells Tim about how she was impressed by the details on the buildings she saw in Barcelona.  She also shows off the elaborate patterned coat she’s making, and Tim wonders aloud if she can finish.  Layana assures him she can, since Samantha will be on hand to take care of everything else.  Layana later talks about how she’s been wanting to Fashion Week for the past 20 years.  Really?  Ever since she was eight years old?  Did she even know about Fashion Week at that age?

Then the models come in to try everything on, and Layana has trouble with her elaborate coat.  At 11 o’clock, it’s time for everybody to go back to the apartment.

The next day is the day of the runway show, so the designers get back to work.  The models come in to get dressed, and then they go to hair and make-up.

On the runway, Heidi introduces the guest judge, John Legend.  He’s a singer, songwriter, and actor, and has won nine Grammys.

Layana is up first.  She made black pants and a salmon top with ridiculously long cuffs that obscured the model’s hands.  Most of the coat was made out of a patterned black and white lace.  The lace had been cut into pieces and then reassembled, with black borders marking the points of attachments.  The coat has a black turtleneck collar and long black sleeves.

Michelle made a sleeveless breastplate out of woven strips of glossy brown leather.  She also made a long gray skirt out of cashmere.  She used an ombre effect on the bottom portion of the skirt with what looks like black charcoal.

Stanley made a long, sleeveless black gown and matching capelet.  The gown has a slit in the back, revealing the glittering fabric Stanley had used to line his dress.

Patricia made black pants and a top with odd, puffy three-quarter length sleeves.  Her top apparently consists of layers of different-colored fabrics sewn together, with a translucent white material on top of everything else.  She also made a short black shawl.

Daniel is last.  He made long black boots and a draped black dress.  He also made a white pleather jacket.

The judges start with Daniel, who says he was inspired by Berlin’s architecture.  He also admits that he’d used pleather.  Nina likes the jacket and the boots.  John loves the dress and the boots, but not the jacket.  Zac tells Daniel that he was “brave” for using white pleather.  Heidi thinks the look is hip, young, and modern.

Stanley had wanted to make a dark look, in contrast to some of his more colorful designs.  Nina loves the “glimpse of luxury” provided by the glittering lining.  Heidi thinks it’s a strong and simple look.  Zac calls it elegant and surprising, while John admires the sleek shape.

Layana talks about how she’d been inspired by all the tiles she saw in Barcelona.  Zac compliments her on her fabric choice.  Nina thinks the coat looks old-fashioned and she hates the overly-long sleeves on the top.  Heidi and John both think the coat has no sex appeal.  When the judges ask the model to take the coat off, they agree that the shirt is more attractive than the coat.  Layana becomes defensive during all this and says she loves her coat.

Patricia talks about how she’d been inspired by the art-installation graffiti she saw in Paris.  Zac calls the look “trash couture” and says it looks messy and lumpy.  Nina is simply underwhelmed and doesn’t get a Paris vibe from it.  John says the look is shapeless.  Heidi, alone among the judges, likes it.

Michelle talks about her fascination with New York’s old buildings.  Nina likes the look and says it’s a good comeback from last week’s mishap.  She loves the patent leather used in the breastplate.  John likes the combination of leather and cashmere.  Heidi doesn’t like the skirt, saying it looks dirty.  Zac notes the quilting of the breastplate, which is hard work.

Heidi then asks each designer why they should go to Fashion Week and who should accompany them.  Everybody says they would take Stanley and/or Michelle to Fashion Week with them.  Stanley would take Daniel and Michelle, while Michelle would take Stanley and Layana.

Afterwards, the judges have their chat.  They all loved Stanley’s look, and agree that he is the most experienced, polished, and focused of the designers.  Michelle’s look is striking.  She’s tough, scrappy, and would work very hard to put on a good show at Fashion Week.  These two are almost certainly shoo-ins.

Daniel is erratic.  He can do good work, but he can also be “old farty.”  Layana has the most commercial taste, but has struggled with high fashion pieces.  She also has trouble editing.  Patricia is intriguing and original.  She’s a great textile designer, but her clothes can be too “artsy-craftsy.”  During this discussion, Nina and Heidi practically come to blows.  Heidi really wants to keep Patricia, while Nina does not.  Nina also makes the most asinine statement ever:  “Fashion is not art!”  Oh, really?  Then why have there been haute couture challenges?  Why the recent trip to the Guggenheim Museum?  Fashion does involve art.  It’s basically a hybrid of art and business.

Heidi then announces the judges’ decision.  Stanley is in.  So are Daniel and Michelle.  The last designer going to Fashion Week is Patricia, which means Layana is out.  Nobody’s said anything, but this is the oldest group of finalists in Project Runway history.  Michelle is the “baby” at 34, while the other three are in their 40’s.  The last time a 20-something didn’t make the Final Four was back in Season 7.

Next week:  Tim visits the designers at their homes, as everybody prepares for Fashion Week.