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Designers Get in Touch with Their Inner Avante-Garde on "Project Runway"

Oh. My. God.

Can I just tell you how much I loved last night's episode of Project Runway? Putting aside Jillian's hysterics at the sewing machine (which seem to come to a head next week) and Ricky's continued teariness at the drop of the hat, this week's installment brought the goods in the form of a elaborate challenge that was unlike anything we've seen to date on Project Runway this season.

The task? To work together as teams of two to create an avant-garde look based around their model's hairstyle. And just when the teams thought they were on track for a last-minute finish for their designs, Tim Gunn threw a bit of a spanner into the works, telling them that they'd have to create another look--based on their avant-garde designs--for a ready-to-wear ensemble. Both would have to go down the runway and (the best part) the designers would receive no time credit.

It was, to say the least, a daunting challenge. Yet some of the designers rose to the occasion, turning in outfits that were daring, groundbreaking, and in two cases, jaw-droppingly gorgeous. This was not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination and yet the challenge allowed the designers to think outside their usual boundaries to create a piece of runway art that didn't even need to be all that wearable. So why didn't some of the designers understand what avant-garde meant then? And what were some of them thinking?

I was quite amazed at how well odd couple Chris and Christian managed to work together, creating a garment that even astonished hard-to-please Nina, who gushed that it was cover-ready for a couture shoot. The dress was absolutely amazing, in my opinion, especially given the time crunch they were working under: a sleeveless dress comprised of layer upon layer of circular champagne-colored fabric (45 yards in all) with an elaborate three-foot tall collar and train that continued the ruffled theme. This was, quite frankly, the most beautiful garment that has been constructed so far this season (or last) and was not only cover-ready but runway-ready for New York Fashion Week. If Christian can keep this up (especially after his near-breakdown last week), he could walk away with the top prize. In any event, it signaled that Chris was auf'd ahead of his time and that he and Christian should work together every challenge...

Their ready-to-wear piece was also a triumph, even if the skirt was a bit of a throwaway. The ruffled top ingenuously mimicked the over-the-top ruffled dress but managed to reign in the excess for something that was chic, elegant, and wearable. Paired with a belt and skirt, it was the natural embodiment of their original design. Well done, guys!

Also jaw-dropping was the design created by Victorya and Jillian, described as a post-apocalyptic trenchcoat: a black satin trench-dress that was lined on the inside with a striking pink plaid that contrasted severely against the starkness of the black exterior. It was a thing of beauty and joined with a gorgeous white blouse with black details and a pair of equestrian pants. It was striking, fashion-forward, and I swear that the female judges were practically drooling with desire.

I thought that putting together Jillian and Victorya--both passive-aggressive type A's--would combust but once they figured out who was leading their little group, they got back on task and delivered two amazing outfits, including their last-minute take on a shift dress, which continued the black-and-pink-plaid theme with a sleek off-the-shoulder dress with a small pink ruffle.

While the first two teams impressed me with their vision, construction, and imagination, the second two teams disappointed me immensely. Both seemed confused by the point of the challenge and didn't seem able to wrap their minds around the concept of avant-garde. Rami and Sweet P proved that they could not get along long enough to really come up with a unified vision for this task or a joined theory on what avant-garde really meant. Rami designed a corseted dress that once again utilized his impeccable draping skills, but there was nothing fashion-forward or avant-garde about it; it looked like a ready-to-wear dress that could have come out of any one of their previous challenges, even though he paired it with a bizarre pair of black trousers. (Sorry, but trousers plus a dress doesn't get you into the avant-garde party.) Sweet P worked on the ready-to-wear portion of the challenge and did manage to create a rather cute silvery grey dress that was pseudo-Grecian and continued the theme. But it was obvious that these two would end up in the bottom two... even before Sweet P admitted that she wanted their design to have "an explosion from the rear." Ahem.

Meanwhile, Kit got saddled with Ricky, who is somehow still in this competition despite the fact that he's nearly always in the bottom two and has yet to impress me with a single one of his designs. Their joint effort, a sort of Scarlett O'Hara cooking in the kitchen look was based around the idea of aprons, which would cascade around the model as though they were forming a fabric nest. I liked the nesting idea but they went in completely the wrong direction, selected the wrong fabrics, and didn't give the judges anything remotely resembling avant-garde. Their hoop dress was tired, a fashion throwback, and poorly made. Their ready-to-wear dress, constructed by Ricky, was a wisp of an idea, a nothingness brought to life by a tired piece of fabric.

I was of course hoping that Ricky would be the one to get booted this week, but so such luck for some reason. Kit was called to task for her vision as team leader and her inability to follow through on the challenge's parameters. And, while I love Kit and do feel that the concept was innately flawed, I was praying that somehow Ricky would finally be sent home. Sigh.

Next week on Project Runway ("Even Designers Get the Blues"), the remaining designers are tasked with creating an original denim design out of jeans and jackets of various hues and textures; Jillian reaches her breaking point; Ricky turns on the waterworks once more.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Without a Trace (CBS); My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC); Smallville (CW); Ugly Betty (ABC); Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (FOX)

9 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); Celebrity Apprentice (NBC); Supernatural (CW); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Don't Forget the Lyrics (FOX)

10 pm: Without a Trace (CBS); ER (NBC); Big Shots (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Ugly Betty.

On tonight's first-run episode ("Odor in the Court"), Betty's new fragrance--created by Fey Sommers--has some unintended effects on both her and Henry, while Claire Meade's murder trial begins.


Anonymous said…
Seriously - does Ricky have to actually fail to complete a task before he is finally given the boot? This is absurd. I loved Kit, too, and even though it was mostly her inspiration, Ricky should have been auf'd for basically contributing nothing.

I was pretty surprised/
disappointed in Rami. He's clearly talented and not a dumb guy - what was so hard about realizing his dress wasn't avant-garde enough? Tim Gunn even told him so!

I am really glad C&C won, but I was drooling over that black jacket.
Giulie Speziani said…
Chris and Christian should work together again. Go Team Fierce!
But for Rami, if he doesn't break out of his mold (one more drapey dress, yawn), I'll have to bet all my chips for the cartoon mosquito, Christian, for the grand prize. And I say that in a good way.
Anonymous said…
I adored both Christian and Chris' and Victorya and Jillian's Avante-Garde designs. I was amazed that Jillian threw together the ready-to-wear piece as fast as she did and still have it look good. That said, I would have liked to have seen what they could have done with that little dress if given more time. (Match it with a more subtle version of the trench coat, perhaps?) I'm sure it would have been incredible.

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