For those who are not deep in the Fashion industry, one might mistake New York Fashion Week for the only fashion week currently going. Those who might know a little more will know about London, Milan and Paris, but mostly because those are the big three that happen outside of the US, and the four together back to back make up the central “Big Four” of “fashion month” where the biggest named designers aspire to reach.
But in truth there is fashion weeks all over the damn planet, and in almost every country you can name. The larger of these are usually sponsored by–you guessed it Project Runway fans!–Mercedes Benz. In fact, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York is actually only one piece that makes up the whole of New York Fashion Week, which is a conglomerate of branded and indie sponsored fashion shows. MBFW’s other major sponsored Fashion Weeks include Berlin, Australia, Georgia, Russia, Istanbul, Mexico, plus Miami Fashion Week in the US.
I bring this up, because Australia’s fashion week was last weekend, and Mercedes Benz scored a rare coup, getting Peter Copping to bring the Oscar de la Renta brand down under to present their Spring/Summer 2017 line. Most American sites glanced over it–there is the assumption we’ll see it rerun in September after all, but for the Australians, plus those who hold lesser noticed Fashion Weeks, it was a big deal to have such a huge name arrive, fifty outfits strong, and tailored towards their own fashion needs. The collection certainly spanned the gauntlet, from office like daywear suits through to the final wedding gown that is the traditional closer for many brands.
The full line is below. I am curious to see how much of this is the same when we reach Spring 2017 RTW in a few months time on this side of the planet.
In retrospect, once Ashley was tapped to appear on TV as a finale collection, it was a forgone conclusion that she would probably win.
After all, as hard as the fashion industry has worked these last few years to try to seem more inclusive, change has been slow. Remember, this is an industry that fifteen years ago was totally insular. ten years ago it was only just starting to open up, thanks to the internet, and shows like Project Runway. But even though there are forces trying to get them to change, models of color are still a rare sight on catwalks, and plus sized models non-existent. The most famous plus sized model is a Size 12. Most of us wish we were a Size 12.
So it’s hard to push back against Ashley’s win. After all, hers was not only the only plus sized collection shown on Project Runway, it was the only plus sized collection that received any coverage at New York Fashion Week. And when you have a historical, ground breaking, insert-your-adjective-here show like that, to not then also give it the win would have just confused people.
Not to mention that, Carrie Underwood noted at the final runway–this was very *feminine* collection. For a society who usually defaults to portraying larger women as dressing in unisex, unflattering or male clothing in pop culture, this was revolutionary. Ashley didn’t just show plus sized clothing, she showed plus sized girls in midriff bearing tops.
If life, and reality shows, were fair, Kelly would have won. Not because of her collection. I’m not going to sit here and tell you her collection was the best of the four. Because I don’t think it was. I actually wasn’t very impressed with any of them, when it came down to it.
But reality shows have a rhythm to them, and if you’re a smart player, you’ll follow that rhythm, and build yourself a growth arc that the show can latch on to. Kelly came in with this “Kelly from the Deli” persona, and started off as a midpacker at best, and slowly built her way up until she had won more challenges than anyone this season. She played smart. As Nina noted at the final runway “She’s so polite. She always says she’ll work harder.” Don’t think that doesn’t count for a lot with the judges, as well as the viewing audience. I saw a lot of people who watch the show, after the first part of the finale, talking about how they were rooting for Kelly. In terms of how to play a reality show game, she won, hands down.
The problem is that Project Runway sees itself as being the fashion version of American Idol. It’s not content, as say, The Voice is, to be a reality TV show that’s entertaining, but will never produce a major star, and will be completely forgotten about in three months when the next cycle begins. Even before producing Christian Siriano, the show had pretensions of being the inside track to success in the industry. And that means sometimes, when they get the industry’s attention, they then have to abide by the industry’s taste levels. And sadly, as fun as Kelly’s collection was, it was nowhere near those upperclass taste levels.
Edmond was a man who clearly trained himself to thrive on Project Runway, after trying out every single season. He was really smart about the unconventional challenges. He sewed like a speed demon, often times making two or three outfits per challenge. But as the prize got closer, you could see him start to self sabotage, leading to nearly being auff’ed right before the finale.
That semi-self sabotage seemed to spiral directly into the finale collection. When Tim came to see him in the first part of the finale, he was the most behind, with the least defined concept behind his line. And though he did somewhat re-right himself, cutting away the over embellishments early on to keep his “wow factor” pieces at the end, I would say that inability to present a clear concept other than “Generic Evening Wear,” such as the gown above, which is beautifully made, but nothing we haven’t seen before, guaranteed he couldn’t win.
Our fourth place finisher Candice, had problems with her finale collection from the start. When Tim comes to your house and tells you your collection is going to wrong way, you don’t dismiss him. I think that from that moment on , Candice was probably doomed. Even if she had a week or another seven weeks to remake, the panning of her collection by the judges was so not something she was ready to mentally handle, I’m not sure she could have solved her problems, which by that point were baked into the text.
But it didn’t help that she also took the wrong notes from the judges last week either. Her choice to cut all the cherry blossom looks in favor of just leather was a freaked out over reaction. As we saw, the only cherry blossom piece that made it in–and only because Candice ran out of time to make anything to replace it–was Nina’s favorite. It was the direction she probably should have considered going, instead of heading down to leathertown.
Merline was one of those contestants who never expected to win. The show clearly didn’t expect it either. From those early “isn’t she the most annoying black lady?” edits, one could tell the production never expected her to get very far. Once the chaff started to fall away though, and Merline hung in their, the edits got nicer, especially when it became clear she would be crossing the invisible line of demarcation that is presenting a dummy collection at NYFW.
And I think it’s safe the say, that’s all Merline really wanted. HeR cheering demeanor when she was eliminated spoke to that. She wasn’t sorry to be going at all. She was relieved to not have to try to force her own working style into the Project Runway schedule. As we saw from her last week’s episode, she’s a mood boarder, which is a process that takes at least a day by itself. Part of why her outfit simply didn’t go far enough is that she needed a week or more to create her concept fully.
As for her collection, as you can see above, hers were the ones with the hats. NATCH!
To say that Swapnil’s collection as the first we have to post in the dummy collection file is a disappointment is an understatement. Swapnil was one of my picks for the final three. In the earlier half of the season, he was quickly gaining steam for “most robbed contestant” every week. Tyra says it best.
But let’s be frank–Project Runway is a bizarre laboratory to work in. It’s not that unusual to see very talented designers flame out, unable to handle the weeks upon weeks of hotel living with multiple roommates, strictly enforced schedules, and difficult work environments. Many reality shows design themselves that way to create maximum meltdown potential in their contestants. It also means that a certain kind of designer who may not be talented, but can handle being an extrovert with no chances to switch off for months is more likely to win.
It’s rare that the show is willing to edit things to allow us to see when a designer is failing to handle to rigid structure of the show. I’m not sure why they chose to do that with Swapnil these past few weeks, with the endless emphasis on his smoke breaks (like the designers in other seasons haven’t smoked!) Perhaps it was to turn the audience against him and portray him as lazy? We can’t know. But we can be sure that his elimination this week over Candice’s comic cosplay piece and Ashley’s choking was more about the fact that he humiliated and insulted the highest ranking crew member put through the wringer last Thursday.
So what is the collection we won’t see on TV? Let’s check it out below.