If nothing else, Project Runway is an exercise in foreshadowing. Proclaiming yourself the most talented designer in the room before anyone unzips a garment bag? Canceling your wedding in Iceland to fly back to New York to appear on PR? You are probably going to get sent home.
Yes, it's true--contestant Serena postponed her wedding in Iceland only to be eliminated before her scissors touched fabric. The Season Nine premier whittled the field from 20 to 16 in the first half hour, and by the end of the episode we were left with a very workable group of 15 designers vying for fashion fame.
When the episode opens, Heidi tells the 20 designers that they are going to shake things up a little bit: They will each present their clothes to a panel (Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and Tim Gunn) who will cull four designers from the herd. We are then treated to a montage of designers showing their work and describing the client for whom they design. Kimberly Goldson says that her client is "urban, glammed-up going to the grocery," and tells the judges that she herself works out in sequined tank tops--Kors loves this, and warns her against working out in her purple satin pumps. Thanks for the workout tip, Michael.
We don't get tons of insight during this section, though there are some cute moments, mostly via Heidi: She puts on a big, feathered cape from Bryce Black's collection and struts a bit, making Bryce weak-kneed; Heidi ogles a scarf worn by Anthony Ryan, and begs him for it several times; Heidi flirts with Olivier, calling him "cute," and expressing love for his clothes and his accent. When Minnesotan Laura Kathleen shows her clothes Michael exclaims: "Who says people from the Midwest don't like color!?" The answer: No one, Michael. No one says that. Bert is my favorite after introducing himself to the camera: "Hi, my name is Bert, and I'm 152 years old." Bert and Anthony have intense backstories: Bert is 3 years sober and is getting back into fashion since leaving in 1992 (the man worked for Bill Blass and HALSTON); Anthony battled testicular cancer in November 2008 and in his words, "I rock one, now."
There is a bit of dissent among the judges about whether Anya, a former Miss Universe contestant who taught herself to sew a mere four months ago, should be een or out. Tim is especially skeptical--he uses the word "horrified," gets up and inspects her clothes by hand--and calls her "handicapped" in the competition.
In the end, four designers are cut: canceller of Icelandic weddings Serena, David Chum, Gunnar Deatherage and Amanda Perna.
After the usual champagne toast, the contestants head to their new home at New Gotham apartments. During the flurry of activity, we learn that Jonathan C. is Mormon but there is no elaboration on that, and I got an email today asking me if I knew that Bryce is also Mormon--I didn't hear him say that, did you? I wonder if this will come up later, because why include that clip if it doesn't? Weird.
All the designers go nighty-night. The camera shows Tim Gunn's gorgeous loafers strolling down the New Gotham hallways at 5 a.m. He lets himself into the suites, starts flipping lights and calling out for the designers to grab one bedsheet and the clothes on their back only (see: "come as you are") and follow him. He leads them on a morning walk through Times Square in their jammies, and they land at their *real* new home, the workroom at Parsons The New School For Design.
Zippers, buttons, dyes, and all manner of notions are waiting for the designers to allow them to manipulate their fabrics. Oh, and they get scrubs to change into, so they don't have to work naked. Most of the designers are concerned with hitting the notes the judges gave them in their evaluations: Bert knows he needs to turn up the volume, while Anya is nervous because "four months of sewing is four months of sewing--it's showing that I don't have the experience."
When Tim comes in for the feedback segment he dispenses his usual wisdom. Anthony Ryan is making a pretty embellished tank top with a feathered skirt; Tim advises him to watch the feather placement to avoid the appearance of a pubic patch(!). Fallene is placing the graphic design from her sleep t-shirt onto her dress: It's a clown vomiting a rainbow into a toilet--hideous mistake or brilliant whimsy? We shall see. Joshua C. tells Tim he has a ½ inch seam allowance on his garments and Tim is concerned, as Joshua C. hasn't even seen his model yet. Bert is making a dress out of his boxers, and I anticipate beauty at the end. Rafael is making some hideous pants and is wearing a leopard print headscarf. Tim points out that the scarf is his most interesting textile and he should use it, but Rafael won't take it off, saying he doesn't want to look homeless--even after Tim tells him he was perilously close to not making the first cut of four designers. This does not scream cutthroat ambition.
During model fittings, the Minnesota Barbie makes me hit rewind. When Olivier and his model have a brief exchange in Italian, Laura Kathleen asks if they are "talking foreign." I want to believe she was being ironic. Joshua C. did get an eater, so hopefully a ½ inch seam allowance is enough. I-Just-Learned-to-Sew-Anya is "in the weeds" as we say in the restaurant biz. Will she make it work? She's never made pants and she's never sewn silk, so naturally she's making pants and sewing her silk nightgown into a shirt.
And then It's Runway Day! Nina Garcia is wearing a big, fabulous filigree necklace, straight from the Proenza Schouler Fall 2011 runway. Christina Ricci is the guest judge. Michael looks orange, Heidi looks pretty.
As the completed looks come down the runway there are a few standouts:
• Danielle: A beautiful turquoise short with a tone-on-tone brown top and brown belt. Laura whispers she wants to steal the model, Danielle says we'll see. • Viktor Luna: Gorgeous black and white shirt dress. Want. Also, his name is a little Harry Potter-esque, so I'm starting to like him. • Anya: First pant, first time sewing silk. Gray-brown almost-palazzo pant and a slinky belly-skimming halter in the print. Crazy good. How did she do it? • Julie: I don't even know. She had like cartoon flannel pants to work with. The top is bright, the pants big and definitely "snowboard like" but they do not fit the model. • Anthony: Great top, love the gray and black stripe with the embellishments. The skirt a little too short. • Rafael: The top is pretty but the pants are pretty awful. High-waisted gray sweatpants? Really? • Bruce: They are going to hate the Brigitte Bardot styling but the dress is great, with a lot of youthful energy.
My picks for top 3: Viktor, Anya, Bruce
My picks for bottom 3: Rafael, Julie, Joshua C.
Top and Bottom 3: Judges' Feedback
Anthony Ryan: Heidi likes it; Michael thinks he does colors well; Nina likes the trimmings, says he didn't overdo it and Christina says he used them to solve problems; Christina calls out the skirt length, but says it works with the model's proportions, which she watches a lot b/c she's short.
Anya: Nina says that the pants look this good "extraordinary"; Heidi is happy to see Anya can sew; Christina loves the whole thing; they all love the butt (which I think the model should get some credit for).
Bert: Heidi is "in love" with the outfit, and calls it sexy, elegant, modern; Nina compliments his adorable boxers and his adorable dress; Christina says the dress has great proportions; Michael loves the design ("fabulous") and, predictably, hates the styling.
Rafael: Heidi sees problems with the bib from the headscarf; Michael calls it a Flintstone disco pouch and hates the unflattering pants; Nina charitably uses the term "fit problems," and says it looks dated; Christina says the pants are off-putting, but the shirt shows craftsmanship. Michael calls it "fashion backward."
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Julie: Heidi thinks the whole thing is bad; Christina calls the shirt charming though she wouldn't want to wear it; Nina hates on the poor construction of the pants; Michael thinks it's a bad pocket placement, and makes a masturbation reference.
Joshua C: Heidi doesn't know which is worse, Rafael's or JC's; Nina calls out his choice "white shorts and a tank top"; there is unanimous hate from all judges.
The winner: Bruce. His adorable dress was cute enough to overcome the styling problems. For now.
Out: Rafael. No one will wear high-waisted sweatpants, bro. No one.