It was obvious from the week of her Belk win, and the ensuing blog traffic, that Dom was the most popular of the designers left in the competition. Though I liked her stuff, it did not strike me how much, or how consistent she had been until I went back over the season just prior to the finale for my Top Ten Overlooked Outfits post. Dom has a sharp eye. More than once, I would look at what she had in process during the Tim walk through and fear a hot mess, only to see her work bloom into magic the day of the runway.
Zac was right: she has a sophisticated way with looks. More than she even herself knows. She’s young, and she’s just getting started. Her runway show might not have been as polished as Alexandria’s. (Remember, she too was deprived of the judges giving her an editing eye prior to the runway.) But there was a raw energy to it that made up for that lack of precision in spades.
I think everyone agrees this was not the outfit to open the show with. Whether you think, like Nina, that she should have swapped outfits one and two, or think like I do that she should have followed suit with Alexandria and opened with her Unconventional Materials wow piece, the result is the same. This is a very good dress, but it doesn’t state the thesis of retro-futurism. If anything, it should have come second to last, if not closed the show.
Alexandria’s work is not my cup of tea. We should state that outright. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it. There’s a market for her work, and a high level New York City gal market at that. Plus, even though I think it actually worked against her to state it outright like she did–Alexandria is bankable. She’s built two businesses from scratch. She’s driven.
I am not in any way saying I think her first runner up status was wrong. I think Dom deserved the win. But I would not be surprised to see Alexandria come back and take PR: All Stars by storm next year. I also would not be surprised if she’s someone who manages to fight her way out of the PR bubble and into the public eye by sheer force of will.
Exhibit A for that belief is her opening number, the unconventional challenge outfit. Yes, at the time we saw it being made by her campers, I made jokes about Child Labor Laws. But we should note two things about Alexandria’s use of this outfit. First of all, she understood that the producers were looking for it to be a wow piece, and on that front she delivered. But unlike the other contestants, she also used it to make a political statement. Yes it was sort of a narrow, silly, privileged white lady statement “Stop printing phonebooks! We don’t need them because we have phones and computers!” is so First World White People Problems I don’t even know where to begin. But think about her audience and her clientele. This is exactly who they are. More importantly, none of the other contestants thought to make their Unconventional Materials outfit a political statement piece. It shows she’s savvy.
If we’re going to talk about Justin, we’re going to need to discuss the addition this season of the Tim Gunn Save. Yes, Tim did step up in season eleven and argue for keeping Michelle for the finale. (And this turned out to be a very good thing after Nina’s chosen favorites Stanley and Daniel both crashed and burned with their collections.) But as long as Tim’s power of was non official, it could be used sparingly and only when really necessary. The choice to add it as an official “thing” that needed to happen before the season ended put pressure on Tim to get maximum impact for it. And what better for maximum impact than to use it on the most pathos inducing contestant, the gay and deaf Justin?
The fact that Justin was not capable of doing very much of interest in the time allotments given, and turned out boring outfits week after week? What does that matter over the value of the waterworks? After all, Justin himself understood that his value to the show lay in his disability and minority status–to the point that when asked why he should make the finale and win, his answer was the same: “I’m deaf and gay!” Ie: “Who cares about what my clothes look like? My existence is enough to be inspirational.”
At first glance, his collection wasn’t much to look at either. The most interesting part of this pure white pants suit is the 3D accessory she sports. But once the personal story behind it was overlayed–of the transition from deaf to hearing via implant–the collection took on an interest that the clothes in and of themselves did not have.
Bradon was a front runner all through out the competition. His looks were always interesting, innovative and spoke to him having a good eye. So what went wrong at Fashion Week?
Truthfully, what went wrong was the same thing that goes wrong for many inexperienced designers when they’re sent home with a budget and time and not a lot of direction. They get too into their own head and are unable to step back and edit. If one were to look back over the seasons, many of the mini collections in the first half of the finale are about the judges getting a gander at what the newbies think they’re going to show and course correcting these kind of rookie mistakes.
It’s really a shame Bradon wasn’t given that opportunity this season. The judges decided to trust him to go off on his own after a strong season. The resulting lack of an experienced editing eye is all over this creampuff of a skirt with its terrible blush-gold material.
I actually had Helen pegged for top three. Nina’s clear preference for her work, plus the strength of the collection suggested to me she would be in.
I did not expect her to crash and burn like she did on Friday, or choose so badly when it came to selling her line. I may not like Alexandria very much, but she pegged Helen correctly, that the girl couldn’t step back and see her work objectively.
There is a bit of unfairness though that also happened in the pictures: they didn’t photograph true to color. We know Helen’s fabrics were red, yet here the clothes look to be a sunrise orange. (Truth be told, they look better in orange.)
Conversely, there are contestants on Project Runway who are clearly being given a pass in the early stages. You recognize them by their landing in the Top Three to receive praise they don’t deserve without ever actually being given the win, or being mushy middled when they should be in the bottom. Kate is a classic example. The show wanted to keep her because she was “a returning fan favorite” (I seriously doubt she was anyone’s favorite, but she did get a more sympathetic edit this time.) But her work was mediocre at best and ludicrous at worse (The FanGirl Challenge’s Peter Pan RenFest garb was especially eyebrow raising.) Finally she did something so terrible the judges couldn’t ignore it and they had to auf her.
I will give Kate this: I feel like if she had made it to the dummy collections last Spring, this is not the collection she would have walked. For better or for worse, twice through the show helped her grow as a designer.
I was a little surprised by this as the opening number. It didn’t immediate strike me as her style.
There are certain contestants that get cast on Project Runway that you know aren’t going to make it to the finale, simply by the wrinkle of Nina Garcia’s nose. It doesn’t matter how good or bad their clothing is on a regular basis, when it’s time to cut down to the final five, they’ll be out. Alexander Pope was one of these contestants. His nun dress that they eliminated him for wasn’t that bad. In fact one could easily argue that Mushy Middler Alexandria’s was far worse that week. But the show had concluded long ago he would not be part of the televised portion of Project Runway’s time at Fashion Week. That, as they say, was that.
Let me tell you, that is a damn shame. Alexander brought high drama to the runway, the kind that hasn’t been seen since the days of Chris March. Even if his opening outfit did look like 22nd century office wear.