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The Art of Fashion and the Fashion of Art on "Project Runway"

I had a feeling, even after Heidi made a point of saying that two designers would be auf'd this week, that there would be four contestants making it to the final rounds. And, before you ask, yes, I've managed to avoid all spoilers about the season finale, New York Fashion Week, or anything else relating to this addictive series.

On this week's episode of Project Runway ("The Art of Fashion"), the series' producers made up for their "quirky" challenges involving product placement, trash, or chocolate and gave the designers creative carte blanche when tasked with using a piece of art from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (easily one of my favorite places in the world) as the inspiration for a garment. It was a dynamic challenge and one that I hoped would invigorate these designs and spur their designers to greater heights than we've seen so far.

Christian won this challenge hands down. There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind that the wunderkind wouldn't walk away with the top spot (even though Roberto Cavalli seemed to be gushing over Chris' garment): it was impeccably made, had multiple elements, and could be translated from the runway into ready-to-wear. Using a European painting of a military commander, Christian used this masculine design to create a look that was perfectly suited for the catwalk: loud, memorable, stylish, and filled to the brim with visionary verve. And somehow, in the amount of time it took Sweet P to make that ghastly dress, Christian managed to knock out no less than five impeccably tailored pieces. This was his piece de resistance and completely proved why he not only ought to be at New York Fashion Week but why he HAD to be there. Bravo.

Jillian turned in a stylish and eye-catching garment directly influenced by the Master of the Argonauts that never once seemed costume-like or over-the-top in the least. This designer can work a jacket like no one else, completing a gorgeous jacket with multiple design elements, from the gold thread on the back of the garment to the peek-a-boo little holes at the base. Coupled with a stunning gold dress (which complemented the interior of the coat), it was a sight to be seen. If she could just work more on her time-management skills (which at least she'll have plenty of time to prep her designs), she could be the one to beat in New York Fashion Week... if Christian doesn't turn up with half a million garments for his runway show.

I just knew that Rami would take something from the Greco-Roman sculpture room and utilize his amazing--if wholly overexposed--draping skills. I've said it week after week after week: show us something new and different. It's clear Rami has oodles of talent and his construction is always amazing but I can't wrap my mind around the fact that in the FINAL challenge, he decided once again to play it safe and do more draping. We get it. The judges get it. You love draping, it inspires you, and it looks amazing. His plum-colored Grecian dress was absolutely stunning. But it looked like any of a dozen of his other designs. I'm glad that he's getting a shot at Fashion Week (though he and Chris will have to each present three designs in a fashion showdown in order to secure a spot in the final three) but I hope he takes the opportunity to reflect on what's happened and where he wants to take his line in the future. It can't all be about precise draping. Sigh.

I really, really like Chris' design, a European painting-influenced couture dress with a pewter reinforced collar that was a logical progression from the painting of the noblewoman's dress, even if it did seem deeply reminiscent of the gorgeous dress Chris and Christian designed together a few weeks ago. Still, it was stunning and definitely looked couture... I just wish he had chosen to embody the painting's grey wrap in another form other than an over-tall collar. But, like Rami, I am happy that he at least gets a shot at Fashion Week, especially because I am completely impressed with how far he's gotten after getting eliminated early on. I can't help but secretly root for Chris and it was clear that Roberto Cavalli was dead impressed with him and his design.

Oh, Sweet P. Where can I begin? I really think her bubbly, infectious personality has carried her throughout a lot of this competition because I don't think her designs have been anywhere near as creative or polished as those of her competitors. Last night's design--a peacock-painting influenced dress--wasn't exciting or innovative. It wasn't even particularly flattering. Like most of her designs, it was pretty flat and nothing that I could get excited about; hell, it didn't even seem particularly peacock-inspired, except for maybe the feathers in the model's hair. At this stage of the competition, it stuck out like a sore thumb.

I wasn't surprised in the least that Sweet P got auf'd this week. I just had a hard time imagining the judges granting her a spot at Fashion Week over, say, Chris or Rami. A wise decision. As for those two, I really am curious to see what they come up with to show the judges. Will Rami break away from his draping addiction and turn in something novel and different? Will Chris be able to keep his couture dreams realized without resorting to costume designs? Find out in two weeks!

Next week on Project Runway ("Reunion"), it's time for the pre-finale reunion special as Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum gather together the designers from Project Runway's fourth season for a little look back at the season's highs and lows. Just what has Jack been up to since he withdrew from the competition? Why was Ricky always crying all the damn time? Answers are on the way.


Anonymous said…
I was so excited for a sec when Heidi said Chris was in, then Rami was in and I felt kind of deflated. I kind of think Rami deserves a shot, but I was SO disappointed/annoyed that he was so obvious this week with his design.

And I am sad because I will be on a plane during the finale. Argh!
I can't say that this episode was surprising (there was no way that Sweet P was gonna make it to Fashion Week) but it was still very satisfying. The four remaining designers are all extremely talented and I can't wait to see their collections. And I think it's good that Rami and Chris will have to battle it out for a spot at Bryant Park. They're both excellent designers but each seems to be stuck in a box (Rami with his draping and Chris with his "costumes"). Hopefully, they'll be able to produce something stunning but also original.

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