To my great surprise, I’m willing to give this Project Runway “Teams” thing a chance.
When I first started watching Project Runway a few years back, I evangelized about it to anyone who would listen. “No, really!” I’d say. “I know, it’s a reality competition show… but it’s one of the best things on television! Sure, it has its cheesy side… but at its heart, it’s a freakishly smart and thoughtful exploration of the creative process! No, I’m not high! Critics are raving about it! Really!”
But for the last couple of years, my enthusiasm has been fading. I was still watching it regularly, I still wasn’t missing an episode… but instead of telling friends, “OMLOG, you absolutely have to watch this!”, I was telling them, “Rent Season 4. That’s the best. If Season 4 makes you fall in love, rent Seasons 1 through 5. After that, don’t bother unless you feel a need to be completist.” Ever since the show jumped from Bravo to Lifetime, the focus has shifted dramatically: away from the creative process, and towards stupid interpersonal drama. And blatantly manufactured interpersonal drama at that. As recent seasons have churned on, this trend has become more and more pronounced… as less screen time is given to designers talking about their design process, and as the increasingly limited work time gives designers less chance to do genuinely interesting work, and as the camera gives crappier views of the actual clothes on the runway, and as casting decisions become less focused on talent and more focused on a capacity for kookiness or junior-high drama. (Also, as it become increasingly obvious that, when it comes to the final outcomes/ winners, the fix is in.)
So I was expecting to loathe, loathe, loathe the new “Project Runway: Teams” season. I was prepared to have this be my “This is your last chance, if this sucks I’m giving up” season. In past seasons, team challenges have been notorious for producing crappy clothes and boring hissy-fits. (Season 4 being the exception.) I was expecting to despise it, to watch it play out as a shabby excuse for pointless, manufactured, scenery-chewing, “Real Housewives of Parsons New School” drama.
But it seems that maybe, just maybe, it’s the opposite.
Maybe, just maybe, the point of the “Teams” setup is to give the designers an incentive to help each other out — and a disincentive to indulge in petty backstabbing.
I don’t actually mind that the “Teams” concept is being interpreted in a more game theory/ Spanish Prisoner way (the week’s winner has to come from the winning team, and the week’s loser has to come from the losing team, so you can’t win if your team is the one with the least points), and not in a “design a cohesive collection” way. If every episode was “design a cohesive team collection,” we wouldn’t get to see enough of the individual designers’ visions. (Some of which are freaking hilarious.) And more to the point: The game theory/ Spanish Prisoner setup of this “Teams” season seems to be designed to minimize the bitch-fest, “I’m not here to make friends” factor (a myopically stupid strategy anyway — rant for another time), and to give designers a powerful, practical incentive to help each other out. The high helping each other out/ petty backstabbing ratio is one of the things I miss most from previous seasons of PR. If this “Teams” gimmick can crank it back up again — if we’re going to get genuine collaboration, or at least genuine camaraderie — I’m not going to argue.
We’ll see. As Tom and Lorenzo point out, PR first episodes are often pretty decent, and the crap factor doesn’t crank into high gear until later. But based just on this first episode, I am cautiously allowing my hopes to get up. Or at least, to not dwindle away just yet.
And now, to some actual designs!
It’s hard to see this in the still photo (note to Daniel — black is hard to photograph!)… but this was freaking gorgeous. Especially given the pointlessly tight time constraints. It’s not the most original design on Loki’s green earth… but you can’t get originality, plus flawless execution of a difficult structured style, in one day. And if you go for originality, chances are excellent you’re going to end up with a hot mess. (One of the reasons so many PR fans hate one-day challenges.) I have no problem with Daniel getting the win. He is clearly one to watch. (Of course, we said that about Ven the One-Way Monkey in his first episodes…)
But I also would have had no argument if Patricia had won. Again, you can’t really see it in a still photo… but that’s not a print. That is hand-painted fabric, which Patricia then cut out into pieces and attached to a blue under-dress, giving it this subtle and interesting motion when the model walked. This really was innovative — at least, I’ve never seen it before — and it worked. Not quite as lusciously dramatic as Daniel’s, though. Kind of a toss-up. I’d have been happy either way.
Did not agree at all with Richard’s thing being in the Top Three. It looks okay in the still, but when the model was walking, it looked bunchy and weird. Asymmetry has to be flawless, or else it looks like a mistake.
I probably would have given the Number Three slot to Samantha. I liked this a lot. It’s basically just a pretty dress with some embellishments… but it’s a well-made pretty dress, and the embellishments are neat. I like how they’re all angular around the neckline, and floaty around the hips. (Ingrid didn’t like the floaty fabric around the skirt, but I thought it worked.)
And I will admit to a ridiculous soft spot for Stanley’s disco jumpsuit. I can see in the still photo that the proportions and fit are off, in a way that I couldn’t see on the runway. But it’s a disco jumpsuit. What’s not to love? And I liked how it moved: kind of both fluid and sharp. Just what you want in a disco jumpsuit.
I don’t know why exactly this one caught my eye… but it did. Something about the blend of “sexy secretary” and “naughty schoolgirl,” but crisp and put-together and adult. Almost authoritative, even. Not worth Top Three, I don’t think… but a definite Honorable Mention. Matthew may be one to watch.
Okay. I get it. I see why every single sentient being, including the judges and Tom & Lorenzo and the Bitter Kittens and probably a small slug on Alpha Centauri 5, despised this look. But — and I realize I am endangering my credibility as a fashion person here — I sort of admired it. You sort of have to admire the ovaries of a designer who grabs a print that looks like a blend of leopard print and Hubble space telescope pictures, makes it into a maxi dress so you can see as much of the print as possible, and pairs it with a red checkerboard belt to clash wildly with the print and make it stand out even more. In the cold light of day I can see how very wrong I was… but I kind of loved this one. I suspect she won’t, but I hope Cindy sticks around for at least a couple more weeks.
And not one nanosecond of argument with the loser. Rarely has cosmic justice been meted out so perfectly. As TLo said, ” We doubt anyone watching last night screamed “NO!!!! NOT THE UNFINISHED TACKY LOOK FROM THE BITCHY GIRL!!!!!!” in rageful disagreement.”
Pics of all the designs can be found on Tom and Lorenzo. I don’t have it in me to write them all up.