Runway Recap: What a Difference a Day Makes


Damn. Day-um. This season of Project Runway is like a rollercoaster. Last week’s episode had me kvetching about how it was a perfect example of everything that’s gone wrong with the show. This week’s episode was a perfect example of everything I love about the show: what makes it fun, what makes it compelling, what keeps me coming back week after week, hoping for its glory days to return. I’d thought that the “unconventional materials” challenges were a bit played out at this point… but the looks this week were fun, imaginative, well-crafted, exuberant, and in many cases surprisingly elegant considering they were made from flowers and hardware. There were a few mis-steps, but on the whole, I am totally with the judges on this one: This was the best overall runway show they’ve had in a long time. And that includes finales/ final collections.

What made the difference?

The extra day.

The designers had two days to complete their looks, not just one. They had time to fix problems; to re-think ideas; to start over if their first ideas didn’t pan out; to sleep on it and come back fresh; to lend each other a hand. Since this was a team challenge, they had time to consult on a coherent concept for their collections, which helped all the designs look stronger. (For the team that actually came up with a coherent concept, anyway, as opposed to the team that faked one after the fact.) And very importantly, they had time to execute more ambitious visions. With a one-day challenge, pretty much all you have time for is a pretty sheath dress or a pretty gown. With two days, you have time to go big — and to fix it, or start again, if your big idea doesn’t pan out.

So memo to PR producers: More two-day challenges, please! Your core audience is not that interested in hysterical drama. Your core audience is bored to pieces with slight variations on sheath dresses. Your core audience wants to see beautiful innovative fashion, and wants to watch the process that goes into creating it. More, please. kthxbye

Now, to the designs!

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Samantha

I am totally on board with Samantha getting the win. I don’t think it was quite as pretty or quite as well executed as some of the other looks on her team. But the “trapped leaves” thing was an idea I had never seen before, and it was a striking and effective and weirdly beautiful look. Like she was a walking greenhouse or something.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Layana

But I would have had no argument with Layana getting the win. This was stunning. Not as distinctive as Samantha’s, and the “pretty delicate feminine” vibe was a little more obvious given the challenge — but it was better executed, and more beautiful. And I think she got the balance of flirty and demure just right. Any more skin showing, and it would have been trashy; any less skin showing, and it would have been timid, either matronly or little-girlish or both.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Tu

And I would have had no argument with Tu getting the win. That woven top was nothing short of phenomenal. Lots of designers say that they take the looks of indigenous people and bring them into modern high fashion; Tu made it happen, brilliantly.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Matthew

Ingrid and I adored this. I don’t think it deserved the win — it was a little stiff and chunky (although it moved surprisingly well on the runway) — but I’m a sucker for a black-and-white striped corset. What can I say: I have Dickens Fair damage. This was totally in our wheelhouse. And it went beautifully with the saffron skirt. Hard to do black and yellow without looking like a bumblebee… but there was not a bumble in sight.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Benjamin

I think Benjamin’s time might have been better used doing something other than making a loom, for crying out loud. But A for effort. I thought he was going to crash and burn on this one for sure; but he made a very pretty dress, very much within his team’s concept, and while it wasn’t hugely exciting, he didn’t let down the side.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Stanley

A little bottom-heavy — I think it’s often a mistake to have all your lightness and visual interest down around the hem instead up up around the face — but well-executed and beautiful. And very much within the team’s concept. Unsurprising, considering that Stanley was the one who came up with that concept in the first place.

Speaking of which, can I just say: Is anyone else getting sick of Benjamin’s continuous self-appointment as the team leader and spokesmodel? Especially since he was in the bottom two weeks in a row. And double especially this week. He wasn’t the one who came up with the team vision, Stanley was, and hearing him leap in AGAIN to enunciate that vision made me want to scream, “Will you shut your white privilege up for ten seconds, and let the person who actually came up with the winning vision talk about it?”

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Michelle and Richard

I liked this. I liked how the shiny black set off the greenery and flowers. Like a lush garden behind a gate. But then, much like I’m a sucker for a black-and-white corset, I’m pretty much always a sucker for a fetish-wear reference.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Kate

And I liked this. Not the most imaginative idea in the world — “Make a pretty dress and glue flowers on it!” — but she executed it beautifully, and it was exuberant and joyful. Kate set out to make her model look like a cupcake, and she succeeded admirably.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Amanda

Amanda got the shaft for this. She should not have been in the bottom: there were way worse looks than hers on that runway. Yes, the shape is a little off, and the moss looks a bit like it’s molting; but the basic idea is there, and it’s good. Color blocking is all the rage right now, and I like the use of nails and flowers and moss to achieve it. If she got stuck on the bottom because her teammates threw her there during the judging, then shame on her teammates, and shame on the judges for buying it. I think Bette Midler had it right during the judging: Once one designer said that Amanda sucked the most, nobody else wanted to stick their neck out and name someone else, so everyone else just piled on.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Daniel

Not at all crazy about Daniel’s hip growths. To me, his model looked like she had some sort of weird alien sprouting out of her belly. But Ingrid is defending them: she says it looked to her like an exaggerated peplum, a la David Byrne’s big suit from Stop Making Sense, and she sees where Daniel was going with it. I can see her point. And he certainly executed it well. But I just can’t.

And speaking of big suits…

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Joseph

I absolutely can’t with Joe’s thing. I agree with Zac Posen: if you’re going to go oversized, you really need to run with it. You need to go super-exaggerated and huge. If you don’t, it just looks like a mistake. To me, this looked like a shapeless harlequin costume. And I can’t argue too hard for Joseph going home on it. But it wasn’t the worst thing on the runway.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4 Patricia

Are you fucking kidding me?

I am entirely baffled as to why Patricia wasn’t on the bottom. I am even more baffled as to why the judges gave it any praise at all. This thing was a cold mess. It looked like seaweed and kelp draped on a burlap sack. It looked like a post-drowning Ophelia costume from an eighth-grade production of Hamlet. I don’t have a problem with the judges saving someone who’s done good work in the past and just had one bad week (although I wish they’d be honest about it) — but I literally do not see what they were seeing in this, at all.

Still. Great runway show overall. Lots that was extraordinary; plenty that was lovely; very little that totally sucked. More, please!

Comments

  1. says

    Looks like the fix is in for Patricia and Benjamin.They will make it to the final six no matter what gawdawful rags they present.

  2. chana says

    Hey Greta,

    I’m a little surprised to see this sentence, “And I think she got the balance of flirty and demure just right. Any more skin showing, and it would have been trashy; any less skin showing, and it would have been timid, either matronly or little-girlish or both.”

    Can you elaborate on what you mean here? Because I don’t think you mean that clothes that show too much skin make a woman trashy, or the converse. Do you mean that in the language of fashion, that’s what that conveys? Is this fashion-specific language that I’m not familiar with? Would love your take.

  3. says

    @chana #2 – Speaking for myself….

    Project Runway is supposed to be about high fashion. Sometimes avant gard, sometimes sporty, sometimes dressy, sometimes couture, but always within a fairly narrow gague of taste and quality.

    From what I’ve seen of the show, the judges use “trashy” to mean the intersection of something vulgar and something worn by a person without a clear picture for what is appropriate to the occasion. Camel toe, side boob or a hem so short that she daren’t sit down can be fun, even appropriate in the right situation, but those are generally not the situations that Project Runway aims for.

  4. jackal says

    My interpretation of the challenge was to make something you’d want to wear despite it being made out of hardware and flowers. I can’t get behind Samantha’s dress at all, because all I see is hardware mesh with plants stuck in it. Same with the black blinds corset – it doesn’t look like clothing to me, it looks like a crafts project. OTOH, petal and leaf work like Tu’s and Stanley’s looked like really high end floral textiles, and I thought those came out really well. I’m with you on Daniel’s hip growths, but I loved his use of lamb’s ear. I agree that Layana’s dress looked fantastic. Somehow, the exposed lattice didn’t look totally out of placel like the mesh did in Samantha’s dress.

  5. Greta Christina says

    I’m a little surprised to see this sentence, “And I think she got the balance of flirty and demure just right. Any more skin showing, and it would have been trashy; any less skin showing, and it would have been timid, either matronly or little-girlish or both.”

    Can you elaborate on what you mean here? Because I don’t think you mean that clothes that show too much skin make a woman trashy, or the converse. Do you mean that in the language of fashion, that’s what that conveys? Is this fashion-specific language that I’m not familiar with? Would love your take.

    Chana @ #2: That’s a good question. I’m going to do some thinking out loud here, so forgive me if it’s clumsy or I get stuff wrong.

    First and foremost: No, clothes that show too much skin don’t make a person trashy. It has more to do with what’s being conveyed in the language of fashion.

    I think that appropriate clothing is very context-dependent: for sexuality, as well as lots of style issues, I think it’s appropriate to show more skin at a sex party or a Pride Parade than on the street or at a cocktail party; it’s appropriate to show more skin on the street or at a cocktail party than at a funeral or at your grandmother’s tea party. And I think — and here’s where I’m going out on something of a limb, and may need to walk it back — that when people show lots of skin and make their look primarily about their sexuality, in a context that isn’t primarily about sex (such as the workplace), the message it conveys is, “Sex, and my body, are all I have to offer.” Also, sex is distracting and attention-getting — like I said in my Atheism and Sexuality talk, we’re descended from thousands of generations of animals who are fascinated by sex — so a very sexual look in a context that’s not primarily about sex can (a) be distracting, and (b) come across as inappropriately attention-seeking, and making it all about one’s self.

    For Project Runway, the looks are mostly being created for a range of contexts somewhere between
    “Pride Parade” and “funeral.” So designers are expected to hit a context-dependent sweet spot of creating clothes that have just the right amount of sex. (When they did the “female wrestler” challenge in Season 4, for instance, the bar was set very differently: nobody lost points for being too sexual, and if memory serves, a couple of people lost points for not being sexual enough.)

    Does that make sense?

  6. says

    That last one made me think of fairy costumes I’ve seen at Renaissance fairs. Trading out the heels and adding some wings, of course.

    I do agree that ‘trapped leaves’ skirt looks pretty nifty.

  7. says

    I was equaly baffled by Patricia’s “look”. When Heidi said she liked it, my jaw just dropped. I still can’t figure out why any of them liked it. I see what’s probably an ugly dress, hidden by hanging flowers, accented by .. a porcupine pelt…with mange? Or maybe it’s formalwear for “The Fly”? This dress says to me “You don’t want to get near this person, and even if you did want to, don’t try it. It’s off-putting in so many ways.

    If Daniel had not done such a good job with using the fuzzy leaves, I think his might have been on the bottom. I’m not sure what the hip bulges were supposed to be, but they came out looking more like a deformity than a design element. But I’m a sucker for soft fuzzy leaves, so the lamb’s ears saved the outfit.

    As for the winner, I think she deserved the win (as did a couple of others). But I could also see, on a day when the judges were in a slightly different mood, them putting her in the bottom because she had too many different things going on at once. Blocks of twine, contact-paper cutouts, a big peplum edged in flowers, and the caged leaves. I could easily have seen Nina saying that there were “too many ideas” and the designer needed to edit. I’m glad they didn’t say that, but it’s the sort of thing they often do.

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