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Project Runway Season 14: Twisting and Branding

After last week’s horrific debacle of a team challenge, we’re all hoping this season of ProjRun will pick itself up, dust itself off and pull it together. Apparently to that, they send the designers to Long Island. Well, it’s a start. What are we doing on Long Island? Fittingly, the Product Displaying Make Up People branded challenge. Yes, the day when MaryKay gets everyone to say the brand name MaryKay over and over again, so that Long Island girls will consider themselves fashion forward for helping their pyramid scheming housewife friends make a sale or two of their Timewise Moisturizer.

The challenge brought forward by these less than creative (but solidly successful) Make Up brand is one that is less than creative, but sounds like it should be solidly successful. Take something that everyone agrees works in fashion, and “put your own spin on it,” which somehow ties back to being inspired by New York City. Hey, it could be much worse–they could have to be inspired by the otherwise bland and standard make up palettes. Also, we’re finally going to Mood! The designers have $250 to spend, and no clue how much anything is per yard. Swatch licks himself, unimpressed with any of it.

Swatch's opinion on this season
Swatch’s opinion on this season

Of course it’s a one day challenge, so there’s discussion of whether than means they have to cram all their design work into six hours or nine hours while still making time to be in an extended MaryKay commercial and Tim’s all important walk through.

We’ll skip the former and go straight to the latter, since I may not be allergic to Tim, but I am definitely allergic to recapping commercial interruptions in the middle of my program.

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  • Candice: Her pleated jacket is interesting, especially knowing she’s also bought vegan leather. Oh right, she has immunity, so it doesn’t matter.
  • Lindsey: She claims to be contemplating everything. The pieces on her dummy look like they belong on Joan Holloway in Mad Men Season 1.
  • Gabrielle: She’s refused to do a stitch of work until Tim approves her design, which seems like poor time management. Tim doesn’t actually say one way or the other, which she takes as approval.
  • Swapnil: His little black dress is more like a little black shower pouf. Tim tells him not to add anything else.
  • Amanda: She had a meltdown because the judges have already marked her to go home early. Tim tells her to put last week behind her and move forward.
  • Edmond: He’s making two outfits because he doesn’t know what he wants to send down the runway. Tim tells him to do the jumpsuit.
  • Kelly: “I want it to be fun. I like fun.” Tim thinks her fun is compelling. I think I’d give it a pass.
  • Jake: Sequins and jersey numbers Tim tells him he’ll need to argue it out with Nina.
  • Joseph: “Mood has a scuba section? Who knew?” In 14 seasons, I’ve never heard anyone mention it either. Now I have.
  • Blake: He has imaginary clothes on his dummy, because who can time manage when they can’t tell time? Tim declares himself baffled.

With that, Tim wanders out the door, leaving us to only speculate what he said to Merline, Ashley and Laurie. Laurie tells her model not to have opinions or ask questions. Human clothes hangers are not allowed curiosity. Blake wonders if the judges like sideboob. His model clearly hates him, because she claims they love sideboob. Spoiler Alert: No One loves sideboob.

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Day of Runway, and Gabrielle has a freak out because she doesn’t know how to thread a serger. (ProTip: you tie the new colors to the old colors and pull and that’s how you never have to thread it.) Blake is making stressed noises so that he will get camera time for being both weird and a moron, before he starts screaming for a medic because he got a drop of blood on his dress. At the Name Dropping Hair Salon, they look bummed out it’s not their turn to have their brand mentioned every five minutes.

Let’s go down to the runway, shall we?

Continue reading Project Runway Season 14: Twisting and Branding

Project Runway Season 14: Cruise Control

I still hold in my heart a lot of love for Project Runway. But there’s something that, I have to admit, bugs the crap out of me. And, unlike most things I complain about when it comes to this show, this is not a “Lifetime ProjRun” vs “Bravo ProjRun” issue. This is a baked into the text issue, if you will. And it’s the team challenges.

I bring this up because once Tim Gunn finishes presenting a 45 second commercial for Celebrity Cruises, he presents the seven suitcases with exotic locations that have their fabrics (so we’re not going to Mood this week either) and will be the inspiration for today’s challenge. Seven suitcases, when there are fourteen designers can only mean one thing: the button bag and a team challenge.ship

To wit:

  • Amanda&Gabrielle: South of France
  • Ashley&Candice: Venice
  • Lindsey&Jake: Hong Kong
  • Laurie&Swapnil: India
  • Kelly&Blake: Greek Isles
  • Edmond&Hanmiao: Carribean
  • Marline&Joe: St Petersburg

Now, on other shows I cover, like, let’s say, Face Off, team challenges are the norm. In fact, it took that show four episodes before we even got to an individual challenge. And when it comes to teams, there is no negativity. There is no making hay of dramatics and “this could be a disaster!” interviews. Because the truth is, when it comes to design work, in the real world, everything is a “team challenge.” You’re never working alone. This is the reality of the creative arts–to work alone is such a rarity that to insist you are incapable of playing nice suggests that perhaps you have chosen the wrong profession. And having experienced this now for several seasons, when I come back to Project Runway and their incredibly nasty vibe that comes with team challenges, not only do I dread these episodes, but my overall reaction is that I am watching a group of people who have no right to consider themselves professional designers, let alone think they should be worthy of a career in fashion.

Clearly, I am in the minority. The production doesn’t just enjoy playing up the ugly control freaks, they revel in it. I mean, the official title of the episode is “Shut Up and Sew.” Can you get any nastier?  Well, you can, as we see some designers talking down to their partners and then wonder cluelessly why their team project isn’t going well. Perhaps we should send them all home–yes you too Edmond. Immunity revoked, get the fuck off my screen. And take Lindsey and Joseph with you. What do you think, Tim?

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  • Ashley&Candice: They want to make a cape. I suppose Superheroes need vacation outfits too. Tim suggests a caplet.
  • Edmund&Hanmiao: “How is this day to evening?” Oh, we forgot that was the point of the challenge because control freaking.
  • Merline&Joseph: The production already enjoys making Merline the butt of jokes, so they love Joseph’s snotty reaction to her.
  • Laurie&Swapnil: Tim calls Laurie’s fabric “the secret sauce.”
  • Kelly&Blake: No drama? Tim shrugs.
  • Amanda&Gabrielle: No drama? Tim wanders off.
  • Lindsey&Jake: What’s their outfit? Who cares, when Lindsey gets to indulge in her worst instincts?

Tim removes himself from the situation to go roll in a pile of money from Celebrity Cruises, or whatever he does between appearances. The models come and go. Then it’s another twelve excruciating minutes of awful behavior from people who I suppose think that they’re winning because they’re monopolizing camera time. Whatever gets you through the day kids.

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You know it’s a bad sign when you actually look forward to the Name Dropping Hair Salon and the Product Displaying Make Up People on Runway day, because it’s a moment of relief from the otherwise awfulness of the episode.

Goddess bless the fast forward button. Let’s see how badly the judges call this.

Continue reading Project Runway Season 14: Cruise Control

Project Runway Season 14: Hallmark Hall of Fame

A round of HEIDI MAIL! sends our latest batch of Project Runway hopefuls to the ultimate destination in branded cards and invitations. Our featured brand this week is a name so familiar that it has its own moments, traditions, holidays it made up in order to sell more cards, and even a TV channel. (Which unlike some channels we could mention, is actually still owned by the company that launched it, and not a subsidiary of Viacom, Universal or Disney.) Despite this lack of synergistic energy, it has still agreed to allow its logo on this week’s program, and have both the contestants and Tim Gunn shill for it. (Really, Hallmark as Alice in Wonderland? No.) In exchange for this 30 second commercial, the store’s entire inventory is now the materials for an Unconventional Challenge. I’m sure someone thought this was an even trade-off. Perhaps the franchise gets to write it off as a loss?

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After the five-minute whirlwind of ransacking the store for every card that has any sort of embellishment on it–and a lot of envelope grabbing to ensure coverage of all the relevant areas when walking the runway–it’s back to the lab for this one day challenge. (Tim keeps harping on that, like last week’s one day challenge, or next week’s one day challenge will somehow magically be longer.) Once he’s gone, everyone starts bartering their cards with each other for what they really want.

Then it’s scissors, saws, wires, muslin, contestants burning themselves with hot glue guns, and a completely unnecessary dash of racism from one of last week’s bottom dwellers. That last one was ugly, and the editing of the kid’s obnoxious declaration of how adorable he is only upped the unnecessary factor. Let’s move on to Tim’s Walkthrough.

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  • Ashley: She has immunity from last week, so it doesn’t matter what she’s making, or that Tim compares it to the Tin Woodman.
  • Swapnil: “Ombre of polka dots.” “Alice on Acid.” (His words, not Tim’s.) NEXT.
  • Blake: Our new racist friend has nothing on the dummy but his limited imagination. Tim tells him to attempt sophistication.
  • Merline: “How is your model getting in and out of that?” asks Tim. I assume she’s going to glue the girl into it.
  • Lindsey: Our resident “I make real clothes, not craft projects” contestant–there’s always one every season–all but says she has no idea what she’s doing. Tim says that’s exciting.
  • Jake: Tim calls his attempt to make his own fabric out of cards roof repair work. At least she won’t leak?
  • Edmond: He’s going branded and bridal. If Hallmark sends a guest judge, they will love it.
  • Candice: She’s using the foil from the insides of the envelopes. Tim tells her to own it. She high fives him.
  • Hanmiao: The kind description of this is that she’s going meta conceptual avant garde. (Yes, she’s just sticking the envelopes onto the muslin wholesale.) Tim says to glue gun the living daylights out of it.
  • Kelly: She has a crumpled up construction paper Native American skirt from a second grader’s Thanksgiving day pageant.
  • David: It’s very 80s. Tim says Re-conceive.
  • Gabrielle: It looks like Valentine’s Day when through the shredder.
  • Laurie: Tim tells her gently she actually has to cover the muslin with card bits for it to count.
  • Joseph: Nothing on the dummy but muslin. Tim calls his idea “Very Kate Spade.”
  • Amanda: Tim calls her textile concept beautiful, but insists her skirt is too ambitious. She has a meltdown.

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No time for meltdowns! No Amanda meltdowns, no calling your husband meltdowns! Here come the models. Everyone decides that it’s not a challenge until Ashley cries, so she obliges. Then they all burn their fingers collectively on the glue guns before going home to hope that when they wake up their disasters will magically look better.

Day of runway, none of the disasters have gotten any better. So Tim tells them to own what they’re doing, because that’s all they can do at this point. Let’s skip the commercials for the Hair and Make Up companies and head to the runway and see what resulted from all this insanity.

Continue reading Project Runway Season 14: Hallmark Hall of Fame

Project Runway Season 14: Style Sprint

Gather round my fashionista wannabes. It’s time once again for lifetime’s ever slowly dying on the vine shadow of its former self, Project Runway. Our contestants are walking with purpose through the New York City streets to Madison Square Garden to meet with Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum (never forget, they are the real stars of the show) for our first challenge. We’ve got everyone from the Contestant Who Tried out for Years and Years before the show finally ran out of people more talented than him, to the “I Don’t Work Well With Others” walking cliché. And there all here to stand on a basketball court. How terrible can it be? It can be bad enough that you shouldn’t have worn heels. Mood has been convinced to lay out what look to be rather terribly cheap bolts of fabric around the seats of the arena for the poor contestants to run at and grab in a three-minute mad dash. (Have you ever run up bleacher steps? Trust me, this is going to suck for them.) They’re only allowed four swaths each. Heidi screams at them to make it more stressful, because you know they needed that.

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Back in the workroom we have designers laughing uncomfortably at each other’s jokes and at least one rude comment that just because a contestant is Indian, he can do magic. (He gently informs the speaker he has left his wand at home.) Back in the workroom, for the first time, Tim makes a big deal over tools and kits, and those who didn’t bring their kits. I’m a little thrown by this–in fourteen years, we’ve never had discussion of this (though we did have that time a contestant brought pattern books.) Is this the first year ProjRun has not provided tools? Or is this just the first year where the contestants failed to bring their kits? At least one misunderstood,  and thought that he thought he wasn’t allowed to bring anything. Tim scolds them who didn’t bring tools, but does not do anything to solve the problem before leaving to let the contestants to it.

While all the contestants weep over their back story drama and Merline gets the most annoying contestant edit, let’s fast forward. Tim’s critiques are what matters.

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  • Duncan: The ginger from New Zealand has a coral drape that looks like a Greek toga. Tim responds positively.
  • Ashley: The purple haired girl already burst into tears once, and has two half skirts box pleated for Tim to approve Tim deftly notes what she likes better and makes approving noises about those choices.
  • Lindsey, Laurie, Blake, Gabriel, Joseph are all montaged through with bad critiques. Only Candice gets approving noises.
  • Edmond: His black and yellow mini dress does not strike me as “fashion rebel chic.” Tim calls it a basic dress and not well done.
  • Merline: I don’t care about her dress, I just want her to stop calling the fabric “muslim.” So does Tim.
  • Kelly: Tim points out that none of her pattern lines match up. That’s not how she fantasized that would go.
  • David gets told everyone should be nervous.
  • Swapnil says he doesn’t like making clothes in a rush. Wrong show buddy. Tim snaps “The whole season is going to be a rush!”
  • Jake: “Where is the innovation?!” Tim clearly forgot to have his happy pills today.
  • Amanda: “Forced and contrived.” Someone bring this man his coffee.
  • Hanmiao: Tim sneers “It droops!” She wilts.

Tim is very disappointed in the room, and scolds that they need to take the lumps of coals up their asses out. It’s Tough Love. After all, this *is* the way the show is going to be. Two day challenges are no longer a thing. Everyone has to be able to work fast and clean, and more importantly, be able to sell the outfits as somehow high fashion, on a production that long ago lost whatever interest it had in producing such moments in favor of contestant who are unstable and cry on cue.pr14-ep1-episode10

Day of runway, and Tim arrives to name check this year’s sponsors, including the Accessory Wall, which is sponsored by a brand you’ve never heard of called Just Fab. The Product Displaying Make Up people are still MaryKay. Amusingly, the Name Dropping Hair Salon now matches them in middle-to-lowbrow name recognition, and run by the Sally Beauty Studio.

Let’s see how terrible the results are.

Continue reading Project Runway Season 14: Style Sprint

Project Runway All Stars Season 4: To Write Love In Your Dress

The contestants announce they’re arriving at the Hearst Tower today, home of Marie Claire Magazine. It’s a dead giveaway of who will be standing with Alyssa–Nina Garcia, who needs no introduction. Alyssa introduces her anyway, stating that this “someone from their past who presently holds the key to their future.” (You can tell when this was filmed, because Nina still has the cast boot on.)  The oversized man hulking behind them turns out not to be a bodyguard, but in fact Alyssa’s other guest–Scott Davies of Zales Sales. He is extremely wooden as he introduces his diamond jewelry as also having something to do with past, present and future–getting engaged. (Because most people only buy their overpriced tacky jewelry because they think they’re supposed to when they get engaged.)

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Apparently Zales Sales is also offering a $10k gift card and a $15k pendant to the winner, which sounds like it was their entry fee to being part of the show. The challenge for this rather surprisingly expensive prize–a party dress that “represents your past, present and future of love.”  The good news–no one has jewelry assigned to them they have to design around. The bad news–they only have an $100 budget at Mood. The anti-Kate news–a party dress apparently means “no white or black.” The Because-it’s-Lifetime news: they have only one day.

Sketching occurs in the foyer of the building near by the Zales Sales display stand, and after shopping for yards of reds and pink fabrics, it’s back the workroom. Already, everyone is talking about their relationships (or lack thereof) in the asides. I smell tears and emotional confessions coming.

Zanna’s not going to stand for idle tears, is she? Let’s hope not. She seems more interesting in selling this as the “Nina Garcia” challenge. She’s also a bit annoyed at all the red in the room.

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  • Gunnar: She’s clearly bored by his red and white dress and demands some “surprise” from him.
  • Ben: points for using gold instead of red, but the dress is a yawn. Zanna calls it “fine.” It’s not a complement.
  • Sonjia: She has a grandmotherly lace. No surprise Zanna calls it Mother of the Bride.
  • Helen: Her red dress is tacky. Zanna sneers “someone’s in love” at it. Turns out, not so much. Here comes the tears.
  • Dmitry: AND I QUOTE “Just because it’s a party dress does not mean we have to abort our taste level.”
  • Kate: She went with a very light silver, which is almost cheating. Zanna is not impressed by the silhouette: “Oh! Kate’s pregnant!
  • Justin: Let’s cry about being deaf and having a boyfriend and ooh over paint symbols and ignore the dress altogether.
  • Michelle: Her lace leans more purple than traditional pink. Zanna’s more interested in the fact that she’s heading into a second marriage.
  • Jay: Another pink that leans purple, with an interesting bodice. Zanna is more interested in his tale of a ten-year relationship.
  • Fabio: He’s got a traditional Barbie pink bolero over a striped pink patterned fabric. Zanna is distracted and shocked by the concept of “open relationship.”
  • Samantha: She’s got a bright yellow fabric, and no personal stories that she’s willing to share. Zanna is disappointed.

No one starts over, no one seems all that interested in injecting anything more than they already have into their dressed. To Kate’s credit, when she realizes her model hates the dress, she decides to go for some alterations. No one else seems to have second thoughts.

Day of runway and other than the usual panicking, there’s not much. Gunnar and Kate seem to be in the worst shape, while Sonjia seems to have pulled some cobalt blue dress out of nowhere. No one cares much about hair and makeup, but I do note that the extra time with the Whoever Is Sponsoring The Wall Now Wall really is a thing this season.

Let’s see if anyone cries about having their love life put in the bottom. My money’s on “yes.”

Continue reading Project Runway All Stars Season 4: To Write Love In Your Dress

Project Runway Season 13: Finale, Part 2

We return to the Finale, already in progress. Kini seems to have forgotten that he has the speed skills to remake his collection, or perhaps the show is just desperate for some sort of drama. Either way, he makes lot of hay over the judges panning his collection last week.

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He is interrupted by Tim who recaps what the judges said, in case we forgot.  He then takes Char, Kini and Sean to Mood. Amanda is self-sufficient, and brought tons of fabric, since last time she showed a dummy collection she wasn’t allowed such last-minute luxuries, and declines to go.

As our designers sew and drape in a panicked rush, let’s take a minute to note that this is the second year running that Project Runway has tied their own hands. There’s a general sense that this Final Four is not very interesting, either fashion wise or personality wise. But there is an interesting story line here. Amanda is the first in PR history to show twice under their Fashion Week banner. If she were allowed to talk about this on camera, this could have made for a very interesting experience. Unfortunately, all she can say on camera was “It feels like Season 11 was my warm up.” Once again, the show’s adamant refusal to acknowledge the Dummy Collections on camera (despite every fan knowing they exist) and plenty of sites (not just mine) running them shoots them in the foot. I cannot understand why they don’t just drop the pretense once and for all.

Oh look, Tim showed up for the walk through. I suppose we should pay attention.

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  • Amanda: She’s looking to turn the long dress the judges said to cut last week into a tunic and a skirt. Tim tells her she’s in good shape and to stop over thinking.
  • Kini: He’s already turned his coat from last week into a minidress. He talks about making shorts and leggings in a quivering voice. Tim makes positive noises at him.
  • Sean: Having been first told by Tim to go total fringe, and then told by Nina that it can’t all be fringe, Sean is splitting the difference. He got a silk in that same bright orange as his fringe pieces and is making a non fringed draped outfit with it.
  • Char: Tim has already told her once to cut the fuchsia and turquoise garments, but she still has them on the table, forcing him to push them away like they are diseased. She does have a rather nice simple hoodie dress, which Tim pushes her not to over design. She also has a cheap looking gold lame, which makes Tim look ill. He has to raise his voice over her protests that she needs to think about what she’s doing.

Dearest Tim, you saved the girl. You broke the Fashion Week wall and forced her in. Your choice caused the production to push her all the way to the finale so we can see her collection walk. (Again, if Dummy Collections were acknowledged, this would not have been necessary.) You have led the horse to water. She will now do what she will do, because this is her design aesthetic. She’s not going to walk an amazing sound infused avante garde piece and blow you all away. You got lucky last year, and your emotional save also had that sort of creative genius in him. She doesn’t have that in her. Next time you save somebody, let’s do it because their designs are worth it, not because they have a nice personality.

The next day we have Name Dropping Hair Salon, and another round with the Product Displaying Make Up People. The Hair people should complain they got shafted.

We finally reach the morning of Project Runway‘s show in the Theater at Lincoln Center. We see what those of us who already looked at the lines know–Char loves the hoochie turquoise look, she doesn’t understand why Tim says not to walk it, and she’s putting it back in. Tim gives up. He gives up so hard, he lets her be totally unprofessional with the models having everyone switch outfits and orders, clearly to the professional models’ frustration. After all, time is up. Like last season, the best collection of the group, and the one that gets those few Fashion people who deign to acknowledge this show at all talking, won’t even be seen on camera. Might as well show what drama can be salvaged. Let’s have Amanda panic over some shoes.

Continue reading Project Runway Season 13: Finale, Part 2

Project Runway Season 13: Roman Inspirations

Our Top Four are all getting their lines televised at New York Fashion Week next week. They’re not even pretending someone might be eliminated, because then they’d have to eliminate Char. Instead everyone gets $9000, five weeks and a three-day trip to Rome to inspire them. Said trip to Italy is being sponsored by Best Western, so we have to sit through a commercial recited by one of their VPs before we watch our designers (and Tim) head to the airport.

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The trip to Rome is narrated by Tim, which is punctuated by the contestants oohing and ahhing. He also plays tour guide. There’s restaurant dinners, sketching in gardens, and a reminder of certain designer’s appointed story lines. Amanda reminds us she’s the redemption contestant. Tim reminds us Char never won a challenge. Sean, having moved here from New Zealand to be on the show, hasn’t even got a sewing machine to his name currently, and needs to use part of that $9000 to remedy this. There is a shopping trip to an Italian fabric store, but it is not mandatory to buy anything, so no one had to deal with unfamiliar units of measure with confusing exchange rates if they’re not comfortable with it. Amanda and Char shop. Kini doesn’t see denim, so doesn’t buy anything, while Sean frets about saving his budget.

With the Roman holiday over, we skip ahead to the Tim Gunn Home Visits.

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  • Kapolei, Hawaii: Kini’s studio is in his family’s garage. His pieces are almost all denim. The “Roman inspiration” is “Park Avenue Girl In Rome” which, meh. Tim loves everything. His family is very sweet, and throw a full-scale luau for the cameras where Tim gets lei’d.
  • Detroit, Michigan: We learn a bit more about Char, including that her mother abandoned her and her dad spent her childhood in jail. Her family assumed she was going to be a hairdresser, which speaks to the kind of limited imagination of possibilities that poverty causes. Her outfits are not hoochie, which is a major improvement. Her inspiration was how small and simple everything was in Rome, from the cars, to the food portions. (Not a bad takeaway.)
  • Nashville, Tennessee: Much like last time Amanda produced a dummy collection for the show, the pieces she’s produced for the runway are startlingly better than anything we saw her make during her run. Her “Rome” inspiration is negligible. Tim’s big warning is not to try too hard. She and her husband own a gorgeous 100-year-old arts and crafts home, which has a porch so spacious we never bother go inside. They also have an adorable ginger kitty.
  • Brooklyn, New York: Sean’s parents skype in from New Zealand prior to Tim’s visit. He shows Tim pictures their farm to express how middle-of-nowhere on the wrong side of the Earth it is. His Roman inspiration is the story of the betrayal of Caesar. There’s also lots of fringe. Tim is floored, but worries that there are two collections, and tells him his non fringe Ready To Wear stuff from the “prior to Caesar being stabbed” half of the collection should be cut.

With only a few days left before Fashion Week, the four return, to cattily judge each other’s work to the cameras. There’s consultations with the Product Displaying Make Up People, and model fittings. The big reason they’re here is to pick out a sampler set to show to the judges. Tim checks in during the model fittings to help them pick out which outfit to show.

Let’s head to the runway and see what the judges think of what their final four turned out.

Continue reading Project Runway Season 13: Roman Inspirations